The Los Amigos High girls’ basketball team had a single representative on the All-Garden Grove League first team last season.
Kathleen Nguyen, then a junior guard, received the honor, asserting herself as a standout player whom other players might follow.
In the two previous seasons, Nguyen endured some trying times for the Lobos, who won a total of eight games over that period.
She now has a chance to compete for a playoff spot, and Nguyen has taken the lead in helping to usher in a turnaround for the program.
Nguyen provided 20 points, four steals and three assists for the host Lobos on Friday night, but La Quinta came away with a 47-41 victory in a Garden Grove League game.
Los Amigos (10-9, 0-2 in league) entered the week ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Division 5A poll. The Lobos have started off league with a pair of home losses against Santiago (8-9, 2-0) and La Quinta (9-8, 2-0), which finished first and second, respectively, in the league standings last season.
Those losses have not taken any of the fight out of Nguyen, who still believes that her team can make a run and challenge for a postseason berth.
“In the final eight [games], I think we have a great chance of winning the rest of them,” Nguyen said. “The thing about our team is we don’t give up. We don’t give up easily. We work very hard, and you could see it in there.
“They were scared, and we’re ready to go into their gym and beat them.”
Nguyen sunk virtually every shot she put up in the second quarter, when she scored 12 points, including two three-pointers from the right corner.
Her contributions were being matched on the other end by her numerical opposite, as Brittney Tran, also wearing the No. 15, was the leading scorer in the game with 24 points. Tran made four three-pointers in the contest.
“[It took] a lot of teamwork,” Tran said. “It’s not just me, but it’s my teammates who give me those shots and give me the opportunity to play for them and play for the school. It’s just really fun.”
Aztecs coach Daryl Funai wanted to take Nguyen out of the game as a scorer in the second half. In doing so, his team stretched a five-point halftime lead into a 42-30 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
“We ran a triangle-and-two on them, which is we man up on the best players, and we had a half zone in the middle,” Funai said. “If there was any penetration, there was help.
“Basically, the theory was, ‘Somebody else is going to beat us now.’”
Sylene Tavita had six points and seven rebounds for La Quinta. Diane Ho added five points, seven rebounds, two steals and two assists. Ryann Nadeau scored four points to go with eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
A Honey Morales layup assisted by Marisol Salinas cut Los Amigos’ deficit to 45-41 with 40 seconds remaining.
Aggressive defense then resulted in a steal by Nguyen, but she was fouled going to the basket and was unable to convert the free throws that followed.
Rachel Luciano finished with nine points, five rebounds and four steals for Los Amigos. Salinas had four points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Alexandra Lopez recorded two steals, and Morales pulled down eight rebounds.
Lobos coach Nate Werdel said his team’s late comeback attempt was a testament to the work that has been put forth by his players in the weight room and at practice over the last two to three years.
He also said that Nguyen has been a great leader in seeing that process through.
“Kathleen has always been a fiery competitor, so I’ve never questioned her ability skill-wise or her desire to win,” Werdel said. “We knew that Kathleen was one of those players who [will do] whatever it takes to win. That’s why she was voted as our team captain.
“She is our calming down force. She is our aggressive force. She’s the one who hypes up the girls. This is all her doing.”
Garden Grove League
La Quinta 47, Los Amigos 41
La Quinta 16 – 15 – 11 – 5 – 47
Los Amigos 13 – 13 – 4 – 11 – 41
LQ – Tran 24, Tavita 6, Ho 5, Nadeau 4, Laconia 3, P. Lam 3, Nguyen 2.
3-pt. goals – Tran 4, P. Lam 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
LA – Nguyen 20, Luciano 9, Salinas 4, A. Lopez 2, Morales 2, L. Nunez 2, Cooley 2.
3-pt. goals – Nguyen 2, Luciano 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
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