By Victor Corral Martinez
Signal Staff Writer
The Hart Indians (18-4, 8-0), ranked first in Foothill League girls’ basketball, faced off against second-place Canyon Cowboys (17-8, 7-1) on Tuesday. The Indians were the favored team with a home court matchup but lost to the Cowboys, 41-39.
The Indians entered the matchup having won the previous game when the two teams last faced off. A Hart win would have made them the Foothill League champions, but the Cowboys had other plans.
“It was a good hard-fought game with high energy,” Hart Indians head coach Jerry Mike said. “Just like the first game, it was a battle of defensive-oriented teams. Both teams were determined to stop one another but Canyon got the last shot and earned the win. We just have to stay determined coming into Friday knowing what’s on the line for us.”
By halftime, Hart held a slight two-point lead, 20-18.
Kayla Hourigan would lead the Indians, finishing with 12 points — scoring eight in the first half. Elyse Mitchell would finish with seven points and Morgan Mack would score six points.
Mitchell was disappointed about Canyon denying the Indians an early league title but said the team didn’t get a lot of shots in at the end. Going into Friday, the team needs to work on cuts, screens, finding opportunities to get the ball and score, according to Mitchell.
Looking into the matchup against Valencia, Mitchell said the team needs to keep the same momentum from the game against Canyon and keep that same level of defensive intensity.
“We will keep working on defense, stay strong and play hard,” Mitchell said. “Play hard like we did today.”
Canyon head coach Jessica Haayer attributed the win to great defense by her team.
“It’s all about defensive stops, committing to our assignments, and doing what we’ve talked about this whole week,” Haayer said.
Haayer said she knows her players can shoot, and the Indians made crucial shots when it mattered; the play didn’t go as planned, but with her team’s perseverance, she was able to take home the win and deny Hart the chance to clinch the league title.
“To be honest, I didn’t even see her in the corner. I saw Aaliyah take the shot, my girl who was supposed to set the screen didn’t, and somebody else did,” Haayer said. “It all worked out and I think with us, it couldn’t have been any other way.”
Josie Regez would finish the game with 13 points, including six in the second half; she would make the game’s final score to win with seconds left in the match. Brielle Miller added eight points and four rebounds.
Aaliyah Garcia would follow with 12 points while also adding five rebounds and five steals; two points came from free throws, which allowed Canyon to be a point short before Regez made her final shot for the win.
Garcia said the last matchup saw her team lose by three points, so she knew her team needed to win this game because the match would be necessary for a potential league title.
“We knew it was going to come down to defense, so we had to make those important stops and make those last shots,” Garcia said.
Garcia added the team worked hard prepping for the match, and she was excited to help set the team up for a win, saying when Regez made the final shot, they both made eye contact and knew it was going in for the win.
“I think we worked really hard to get to where we are today, it feels good to win,” Garcia said.
The Indians were set to take on the Valencia Vikings at 5 p.m. Thursday. The Cowboys are scheduled to play a league matchup at Saugus on Friday at 5 p.m.