Kandyce Smith leads La Salle girls' basketball to classic win

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE - Jump shots, fade-aways, layups and free throws, Kandyce Smith did it all.

The junior guard for the La Salle High girls' basketball team was not going to be stopped by Moorpark in the championship of Saturday night's La Cañada New Year's Ball Holiday Classic.

Smith led her team to an upset victory against the sixth-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 2A. She scored a game-high 28 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had five steals in a 46-40 victory against the tournament's defending champions at La Canada High.

"Once I get in my zone, no one can stop me," said Smith, who was two points shy of her career high.

Smith, who was selected the tournament's most valuable player, was in her zone in the third quarter.

In eight minutes, she scored all of her team's 13 points, including hitting five of six shots in one stretch. She started the fourth quarter with a bucket, as well, as La Salle and Moorpark battled in a tight game that featured 10 lead changes.

"She can go to the hole strong and she can knock the shot down strong," La Salle Coach Kevin Cormier said.

Moorpark tried putting a number of different players on Smith.

None of the Musketeers could stop her.

Smith powered guards in the post, took forwards off the dribble from the perimeter and imposed her will.

"She's a tough matchup because she's so strong and physical," Moorpark Coach Keith Case said.

Smith's teammates helped her in the fourth quarter.

One of those players was all-tournament selection Brianna Rodriguez.

With La Salle (10-3), which snapped Moorpark's four-game winning streak, trailing by a point, Rodriguez was left open at the three-point line. Case had asked his team to not leave Rodriguez open on the weak side. His team was too focused on Smith, leaving Rodriguez open.

Rodriguez hit a three-pointer with 4:05 to play to give La Salle a lead it would not relinquish.

Smith and Dionna Williams, who had nine rebounds, followed with consecutive baskets to give La Salle a 42-37 lead against a Moorpark squad that struggled from the field. Moorpark (9-2) was 16 of 66 (24.2%) from the field.

"We knew we couldn't let them dictate the tempo and run their offense," said Cormier, who also chose junior guard and all-around threat Caroline Knop (five rebounds and four assists) for the all-tournament team. "We would mix it up defensively. We had to make them uncomfortable."

Moorpark also had issues at the free-throw line, making just three of 12 free throws. 

La Salle was not much better from the field, as it made 20 of 64 shots (31.2%) shots.

But it had Smith, and Moorpark did not have an answer.

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