SAN CLEMENTE – In games of this magnitude, any small thing can be the spark to light the path to victory, and that proved to be case for the San Clemente girls basketball team.
As the Tritons and San Juan Hills battled for sole possession of first place in the South Coast League, the Stallions pushed out to a seven-point lead early in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Amanda Edwards. Minutes later, Edwards fouled out, which left San Juan Hills without two of its top-four scorers and gave San Clemente a clearance forward.
Zona Miller scored nine points in a 15-6 San Clemente run to put the Tritons ahead in the fourth quarter, and Kiley Quillin, Ellie Anderson and Claire Pham each hit 3-poitners to keep San Clemente ahead and hold off San Juan Hills, 68-59, on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 21, at San Clemente High School.
San Clemente, ranked No. 4 in CIF-SS Division 2AA, and San Juan Hills, ranked No. 2 in CIF-SS Division 2AA, will meet once more in the regular-season finale at San Juan Hills on Feb. 2.
“I’m still processing. That was a great win for us,” San Clemente coach Kerri Husbands said. “San Juan is such a great team, well coached, outstanding players. I just love my girls. We’ve got a lot of fight in us. Play with a lot of heart, a lot of grit.”
Miller scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half to lead San Clemente (20-5, 4-0). Pham was right behind with 16 points, and Anderson added 11 points.
“Honestly, a big help was when 22 (Edwards) fouled out,” Miller said. “It allowed us to get the momentum we needed, and that was the turning point.”
San Juan Hills (19-5, 3-1) was already without one of its four double-digit point-scorers before the game with Sydney Peterson down with a leg injury, and while Edwards still reached double figures with 12 points on four 3-pointers, the Stallions, who earned a couple more bandages during the game, couldn’t regain their hot scoring touch in the fourth quarter.
“I’m going to play that back and forth all weekend long of putting Amanda back out there with four fouls,” San Juan Hills coach Paul Edwards said, “but I thought we needed her scoring punch. Tough night, but you know what, that’s basketball. Everyone goes through it, but that’s what we learn from it. Everyone has advserity… and you’ve got to battle through it.”
San Juan Hills did get plenty of fight from its top two scorers, as Aryanna Hudson led all scorers with 21 points and four 3-pointers, and Anna Shreeve netted 13 points. San Juan Hills nailed 10 3-pointers in the game.
“We learn from every loss,” Coach Edwards said. “You’ve got to overcome adversity. I thought our girls battled hard, so I can’t fault any effort. I’m so proud of them. It was a tough environment. To be down one starter, to lose another starter in the third quarter… The girls battled their guts out.”
San Clemente has now won five games in a row, including two road wins in league this week over by 38 points Trabuco Hills and four points over Tesoro.
“We’ve been building with each game about really communicating with each other, playing smart and understanding situations,” Husbands said. “They’re learning.”
Saturday’s game opened with a frenetic pace as the Tritons and Stallions raced up and down the court, matching each other nearly basket-for-basket.
San Juan Hills sank five 3-pointers in the opening quarter to hold a four-point lead, 21-17.
The Stallions then looked to take control of the game midway through the second quarter, as Shreeve dominated the lane to the basket to build a 10-point San Juan Hills lead.
San Clemente pulled within four points at the halftime break thanks to the hot hand of Pham, who made three 3-pointers in the second quarter and led the Tritons’ first-half offensive efforts.
San Clemente begins the second half of South Coast League play at Aliso Niguel on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The Tritons doubled up the Wolverines by 31 points, 62-31, on Jan. 10.
San Juan Hills opens the second round of league at Tesoro on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The Stallions beat the Titans by 21 points on Jan. 10.