Late turnovers would be the downfall of the Hart Indians girls’ basketball season in the team’s Division 1 playoff opener against the Harvard-Westlake Wolverines.
The Wolverines prevailed on Thursday, 67-63, after forcing a handful of Indian turnovers late in the game.
Hart (22-6) fell just short after a fierce comeback in the third quarter that put the Indians up by two heading into the fourth.
The Indians drilled three straight 3-pointers to close out the third and carried that momentum into the fourth with another perimeter shot from junior Morgan Mack.
Mack led the Indians with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Mack registered back-to-back assists to junior Andrea Aina, who hit consecutive 3-pointers to close out the third quarter. The run was sparked by a pair of Eav sisters, as junior guard Emery Eav dished to her senior sister, Arleigh, who drilled the first of four 3-pointers.
Arleigh had a great outing in her final game for Hart as she finished the game with 18 points and three steals.
Hart entered both halves with great energy and posted 23-point quarters in the first and third. However, the Indians slumped in the following quarters, scoring eight in the second and nine in the final period.
“We were ready to play,” said Indians coach Jerry Mike. “I don’t really go into games with too many expectations, but I figured the game was going to be nip and tuck even. They’re good and they don’t have any weaknesses.”
Despite a handful of early turnovers, the Indians were still able to hammer in 23 points. Hart could’ve pushed into the 30’s if not for Wolverines guard Jamie Yue, who had four steals in the first five minutes of play.
Mack started off the game hot and pushed Hart forward with 12 points in the first quarter alone. The game featured two of the Division’s best players going at each other as the star junior, Mack, was matched with Harvard-Westlake guard Deana Thompson for most of the night.
Thompson matched Mack with 25 points, as both seemingly scored at will when they had the ball.
Hart forward Janelle Boozer made three of four free throws with just a few clicks left in the second quarter to tie the game. However, Wolverines freshman shooting guard Hollen Vann drilled a long 3-pointer to take the lead at halftime.
Mack hit two technical foul free throws to start the third quarter, in a quiet gym with all eyes on her. Hart was awarded the foul shots due the Wolverines suiting up two players with No. 10 jerseys.
Harvard-Westlake (12-17) pulled ahead in the third as Thomson and Vann kept finding ways to score before Hart’s 12-0 run.
Vann finished with 11 points and two assists.
Wolverine sophomore guard Madison Mcdonald came alive in the fourth quarter to help put her team ahead. Mcdonald added eight of her 12 points in the final quarter and also added some nice passing with seven assists.
Senior Lily Cornejo also played well in her Hart finale, tallying five points and rebounds. Cornejo and Arleigh Eav are the only two seniors for Mike.
“Arleigh has been with me since I arrived,” Mike said. “From Zoom workouts, to Placerita blacktop to this very moment, I can only think so highly of her. Not just as a player. She’s an awesome person. She’s just top-notch. And I love Lily. Lily’s fun and the life of the party. She’s come a long way. She was a scoring threat with a little float game. She plays good defense, gets rebounds and I hope she keeps playing. She has really come a long way.
“I’m gonna miss those two. It bothers me that I don’t get to coach them anymore.”
Hart is in good hands with Mike at the helm and a plethora of talented juniors returning to the team.
“This team is one of my all-timers,” Mike said. “In terms of being together, doing everything we asked, always being on time, early, putting in extra work, being attentive in film and all the little things. They did all the little things to be a really good team. This team is pretty awesome. I’m gonna definitely miss those two seniors.”