La Salle Lancers girls’ basketball is on track for its second-straight CIF championship, after a road win over the Canyon Cowboys in the Division 2AA quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The Cowboys were ice cold from the floor, leading to a big Lancer lead early in the game. La Salle won the game, 53-36, thanks to some nice ball movement and tight on-ball defense.
Sophomore Kaden Cortes led the Lancers (28-3) with a game-high 18 points.
Canyon (20-8) struggled to get going early in the game. The Cowboys’ first bucket dropped with 3:31 left in the first quarter. The and-one by Jade Sims was the team’s only score of the quarter.
Sims finished with 14 points, five rebounds and a block.
La Salle rode a 13-0 run through the first two quarters but couldn’t build a comfortable lead. The Lancers never stopped moving off the ball, which led to numerous La Salle layups.
2022 CIF Player of the Year Audrey Chen added 13 points, five rebounds and a pair of blocks for the Lancers.
Canyon head coach Jessica Haayer knew Wednesday would be a challenge for her team, but the team never backed down.
“I think the hard part about a team like LaSalle is (they’re) very disciplined, and discipline means they’ll run their motion, over, over, over and over until they get that layup,” Haayer said. “If you don’t sit in a stance, if you don’t defend and get in people’s faces and make them choose otherwise, then they’re going to have easy looks.”
The offensive struggles continued in the second half as Canyon didn’t hit a field goal until 1:42 left in the third quarter.
Canyon guard Josie Regez and Sims both found some rhythm late in the game and avoided the team’s lowest scoring output of the season thanks to some late scoring. The duo led Canyon to the team’s best 16-point quarter in the fourth. However, the Cowboys fell short of a comeback and ended their season at home as La Salle advanced.
Regez led the Cowboys with 16 points.
“La Salle’s a really good team, they’re probably gonna win it all,” Sims said. “They played better than we did tonight. And we weren’t shooting well or rebounding at all. We should’ve done so much better.”
For Canyon, it was another successful season with the team’s second straight Foothill League title and second consecutive CIF quarterfinals appearance. Some of the team just met before the season but a handful of the girls, like Sims and point guard Aaliyah Garcia, have been playing together nearly their entire lives.
“Aaliyah, she’s been with me since Parks and Rec days since we were 6 or 7 years old and I’m really happy that we got to play together,” Sims said. “She’s my best friend and I’m just so happy (she was) my point guard for all four years.”
Garcia has a strong case for repeating as Foothill League Player of the Year, after her senior campaign. The four Cowboy seniors all have the capabilities and mutual interest of playing collegiate basketball. Even after an up-and-down four years, Sims and the team are coping with the fact that their high school careers are ending.
“It’s been a really long and stressful four years with a lot of devotion,” Sims said. “Now that it’s over, I’m not going to be with them anymore. It really sucks and it really hurts because they’re my family. They’re the only people I surround myself with.”
La Salle will be back on the road Saturday in the CIF semifinals at Redondo Union.
As for Canyon, another strong season is in the books. Haayer hopes to see her seniors continue their playing careers. The coach praised her team’s season in their final postgame meeting, especially her seniors who have gone through it all in a green and gold jersey.
“They did it for four years,” Haayer said. “They got two league championships out of it… Hard work pays off. So, you just applaud them for the work and just remind them that it’s not over, and hope that they will continue to play. I’ll continue to be their No. 1 fan, and continue to push them.”