The win streak now hits five games as the hosting Hart Indian girls’ basketball won the battle of Foothill League undefeated teams over Canyon on Friday.
Hart won the game 51-48 behind 24 second-half points from senior Laney Grider. The senior was held scoreless through the opening two quarters but exploded in the third to bring her team back to life.
The Indians (17-2, 5-0) are now the last unbeaten team in the Foothill League.
Canyon (11-7, 4-1) started slow but caught up quickly. A handful of wide open layups got away from the Cowboys and rimmed out.
However, near-perfect sharpshooting from Cowboys point guard Aaliyah Garcia brought the squad back. Garcia picked up three fouls but hit four threes in the opening quarter, including a buzzer beater to tie the score at 14-14.
Garcia led the Cowboys with 16 points.
An unforced turnover on Hart’s first possession of the second quarter set the tone early for the period. The Indians scored just eight points while Canyon pulled ahead for the first time of the night.
Cowboys junior Josie Regez was held scoreless throughout the first but went on a 7-0 solo run to take Canyon’s first lead of the game.
Regez finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
Sophomore Morgan Mack picked up the slack while Grider was in a first-half slump. Mack tallied up 18 points and six rebounds.
“I think we just went out there and played our best,” Mack said. “Luckily, I was starting off making some shots but it was a team effort.”
Canyon played strong defense throughout the quarter and held the Indians to just eight points.
Hart began the second half without any ball movement. The Indians came up empty in their first few possessions until Grider’s phenomenal half.
Grider scored 21 straight points for her team to storm in front and convincingly outscored the Cowboys in the third quarter.
“When people have hot hands, of course we want to get them the ball,” Grider. “But we believe that anyone on our team can score and everyone has the same amount of talent in my eyes.”
Canyon was held to just 10 points in the quarter but couldn’t get going on offense to close out. The Cowboys posted nine points in the final quarter, needing just three more points.
Cowboys senior Jade Sims provided most of the offense in the second half. Sims scored 12 points while adding five assists.
Hart’s defensive adjustments were the cause of the Canyon offensive rut. The team doubled Garcia in the middle of the floor while having a zone defense on the base line. The formation clogged the passing lanes while adding a ton of pressure onto the Canyon point guard.
“We’ve been working on it,” Mack said. “We really want to pride ourselves on defense. And we have been working on it so much this year. It really works to our strengths and it showed tonight.”
Free throws hurt both teams to close. Canyon missed a few much-needed shots at the foul line while Hart missed a couple of free throws that could’ve potentially iced the game.
Garcia just missed two 3-point shots to end the game as Hart picked up another win in their historic rivalry over Canyon.
“I think [the difference maker] was the amount of energy and the amount of heart we put into it, don’t mind the pun,” Grider said. “But it’s whoever wants the game more. I think we wanted the game more in the second half and that’s what showed.”
For Cowboys head coach Jessica Haayer, it was just another high-level Foothill League matchup.
“I try not to hype it up like that,” Haayer said. “To me, it’s just another Foothill League game. Obviously you want to finish on top. But if you don’t, I believe that it will still go to the playoffs. So I try not to get them too overly excited, but they were excited. I think our parents on both sides are more excited than us.”
The two teams will meet again on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 5 p.m. at Canyon.
“I just remind them, it’s not over,” Haayer said. “At the end of the day, those numbers can still be up on our wall, that title can still be ours, too. So it’s never over and it’s at our place next so we just have to get better.”
The Cowboys have dropped four of their last five and look to bounce back next week. Canyon will be back on the road on Tuesday for a league matchup at Saugus at 5 p.m.
For now, Hart will have a road Foothill League battle at Valencia on Tuesday at 5 p.m.