FOUNTAIN VALLEY – One might only imagine what was going on behind the closed doors of the Los Amigos High locker room following Wednesday night's game.
The school's girls' basketball team had strung together 14 consecutive wins, all adding to the anticipation of a high-profile league opener.
A lengthy unbeaten streak had the Lobos believing that this was their year, but there comes a time when the strength of one's convictions are tested.
Now will be that time for Los Amigos, as two-time defending league champion Garden Grove demonstrated that it is not ready to see a changing of the guard just yet.
Point guard Kayla Castaneda had 20 points, seven steals, and five rebounds to lead the Argonauts past the Lobos, 47-33, in a Garden Grove League opener at Los Amigos High.
Garden Grove notched its 26th straight league victory.
After weeks of hearing that Los Amigos (14-2, 0-1) was the team to beat in the league, Garden Grove coach Michael Engelmann wanted to send a message.
"I told the girls I wanted to crush them," Engelmann said of facing the red-hot Lobos. "I wanted to take their heart out of the game and out of the rest of the league."
It was the first time that the Argonauts (11-6, 1-0) had their core trio of Castaneda and post players Ve'a Gauta and Kina Tauaika together since a win in the Ocean View Hawk Holiday Classic over C.A.M.S. on Dec. 8.
Health made a huge difference, as the Argonauts succeeded in doing something that nobody has done against the Lobos this year. That was making center Cheryl Caldera a non-factor on the offensive end.
With the length of the 6-foot-2 Gauta and 5-foot-11 Tauaika on the floor together, the Lobos could not get the ball to their center.
"I've been doubled before, but not when it's two bigs double-teaming me," Caldera said. "It was harder."
Caldera did not scratch from the field in the game, connecting on a pair of free throws in the third quarter for her only points.
Gauta had 11 points, 12 rebounds, four steals, and three assists for Garden Grove. Tauaika added 10 points and six rebounds.
All year long, the Lobos have fed the ball to Caldera in the post. Senior guard Jennifer Murillo said it was the first time this season that the team has had to look elsewhere for a focal point on offense.
Los Amigos did not diagnose the problem early, and it resulted in an 11-turnover first quarter as the Lobos attempted to force the ball inside.
The Lobos made just four shots in the first half. They were fortunate that all of them were 3-pointers – two by Mary Rivera and one each by Kacie Vazquez and Murillo.
Garden Grove had Los Amigos doubled up, 24-12, at halftime.
In the third quarter, Lobos coach Sabrina White moved Caldera to the top of the key in an effort to create more driving lanes.
The Lobos received a boost offensively. A 3-pointer by Murillo with 3:30 left in the period capped a 7-0 run to make it 24-19.
"The third quarter is when we succeeded the most," Murillo said. "We just went in there, turned the tables, and picked up the speed because we knew that they wanted to slow down the game and run their set."
"Next time we play them, we've got to set the pace right from the beginning."
Murillo had a team-high 18 points to go with five rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Castaneda drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to open the fourth quarter. That expanded Garden Grove's edge to 36-24, and the Argonauts led by double digits the rest of the way.
The Lobos quickly exited the court and did not come out of their postgame meeting for an extended period following the disappointing defeat.
"We were prepared for this," Caldera said. "We knew what was going to happen, but we were expecting a different outcome. It should have been our game.
"We should have been ready, and next time, we will for sure be ready."
The teams meet again at Garden Grove on Friday, Jan. 27.
GARDEN GROVE LEAGUE
Garden Grove 47, Los Amigos 33
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Garden Grove – 12 - 12 - 9 - 14 – 47
Los Amigos – 6 - 6 - 12 - 9 – 33
GG – Castaneda 20, Gauta 11, Tauaika 10, Christian 3, Dellalonga 2, Moreno 1.
3-pt. goals – Castaneda 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
LA – Murillo 18, Rivera 6, Vazquez 5, Rendon 2, Caldera 2.
3-pt. goals – Murillo 4, Rivera 2, Vazquez 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.