Tenth-ranked Esperanza began Thursday's game against seventh-ranked Laguna Hills expecting a big challenge. Instead, it found a big hole.
Laguna Hills' 6-foot-6 center, Tayyiba Haneef, was on the bench because of a sore knee, which enabled Esperanza to use its superior inside game to score a 48-37 nonleague victory.
The host Aztecs (10-1) got 17 points apiece from Lindsay Foss, who had 13 in the second half as Esperanza improved its 18-16 halftime lead, and Leah Combs, who made eight of 12 shots from the floor. Both had eight rebounds.
Laguna Hills dropped to 7-1.
"It was a relief when we saw [Haneef] wasn't starting," Foss said. "I was expecting her to play--that's what we worked on in practice. . . . I've never seen her play so I didn't know how good she was, but [our] post players were excited because we looked on it as a challenge."
Haneef's absence certainly played a role in the margin of defeat.
"That's the first time this year anyone's hurt us inside," said Laguna Hills Coach Lynn Taylor, whose team was outrebounded, 45-34. "You do what you can do. I felt in the first half, we were still in the ball game."
With Haneef (11.1 points, 12 rebounds) out, Tamara Inoue (averaging 13.9 points) was left with the scoring burden.