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Sage Hill girls’ basketball falls short at red-hot Whittier Christian

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Sage Hill’s Zoe Mazakas (5) battles Whittier Christian’s Haley Gainer for the ball in a nonleague game on Thursday in La Habra.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

The Sage Hill School girls’ basketball team hit its stride in tournament play.

Over the last two weeks, the Lightning won seven of the eight games they played across the CdM Tip-off Tournament and the Hawk Holiday Classic.

The Lightning got a good test in a true road game against red-hot Whittier Christian on Thursday night. They came up a little short.

Joleen Corona had a game-high 22 points and five steals, and the host Heralds won their seventh straight game in edging Sage Hill 48-43 in the nonleague contest.

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“We’re very confident right now, and we execute everything that we do in practice,” Corona said. “Our coach, [Whitley Brown], does a good job of getting on us if we do anything wrong, so it shows on the court that we’re very disciplined.”

Corona pushed the ball in transition, scoring in the paint and getting to the free-throw line, where she converted eight of nine attempts.

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Sage Hill’s Emily Elliott (1) drives to the basket against Whittier Christian’s Shelly Vasquez (23) and Juliette Corona in a nonleague game on Thursday in La Habra.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

The senior point guard scored 17 points in the second half to keep Whittier Christian (11-1) in front for most of the second half.

Sage Hill (7-4) held its first lead after Zoe Mazakas made a pass from the high post to Emily Elliott for a mid-range jumper that gave the Lightning a 9-8 advantage late in the first quarter.

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The Lightning maintained that lead until the late stages of the second quarter, when Emma Eaton caught fire from distance for the Heralds.

Eaton got a fortunate bounce on a three-pointer with 1:23 to go in the second quarter for her first points. She continued to shoot, making three consecutive three-pointers to close out the first half.

“I’ve told Emma from day one when I met her that she is a pure shooter,” Brown said. “Whenever she is in, we’re telling her to look to score. It’s like goldfish memory. If you miss one, you make the next one.

“That’s just what we have been preaching to her all year and the past couple of years. It’s fun to see that come to fruition.”

Whittier Christian established its largest lead of 40-33 on a driving layup by Corona with 5:44 remaining.

Isabel Gomez had eight points the rest of the way for the Lightning, including a three-pointer with 15.9 seconds to go to cut the Whittier Christian lead to 45-43.

Shelly Vasquez made one of her two free throws for the Heralds, leaving the Lightning down by three.

Gomez brought the ball up, but she was called for traveling as she attempted to create room for a possible game-tying shot. The call was much to the chagrin of Gomez, who hung her head following the whistle.

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Mazakas had 11 points and 19 rebounds to lead Sage Hill.

“She has been averaging a double-double this entire season,” Lightning coach Kerwin Walters said of Mazakas. “I think one of the games, she had 21 rebounds, and she has been really going at the glass.”

“She is really focused on trying to take it to the next level. I think she can do it. We have to clean up a few of things, make her be a little more aggressive on the offensive end, but obviously, if you’re looking for a rebounder, you’ve got one.”

Elliott added 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots for the Lightning. Gomez finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Megan Shean contributed five points and five rebounds, while Jacqueline McNeill also pulled down five rebounds.

The game got chippy, at times, as players battled for loose balls in the second half.

“Kudos to both teams,” Mazakas said. “We’re both very scrappy. Unfortunately, sometimes with two scrappy teams going against each other, it gets a little too aggressive and it starts turning into a little bit of street ball.

“I think that overall, it was just a really good game. I think that both teams obviously wanted it. Both played hard. I’m proud of my girls, and I respect their girls.”

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Sage Hill’s Isabel Gomez (24) takes a shot in the paint against Whittier Christian’s Juliette Corona (31) and Haley Gainer in a nonleague game on Thursday in La Habra.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)
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Nonleague

Whittier Christian 48, Sage Hill 43

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Sage Hill 11 – 10 – 11 – 11 — 43

Whittier Christian 8 – 14 – 12 – 14 — 48

SH – Elliott 12, Mazakas 11, Gomez 11, Shean 5, Carpet 2, McNeill 2.

3-pt. goals – Gomez 2, Shean 1.

Fouled out – Shean.

Technicals – None.

WC – Jo. Corona 22, Eaton 9, S. Sherfey 6, Vasquez 5, A. Sherfey 4, Gainer 2.

3-pt. goals – Eaton 3.

Fouled out – None.

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