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Surprising hot start continues for Marina girls' basketball with win over Buena Park

The first quarter of Thursday night’s game could be considered a microcosm of the season thus far for the Marina High girls’ basketball team.

Marina shut out Buena Park in the opening period en route to a 41-22 victory in a Soaring Flight game of the Hawk Holiday Classic at Pacifica High in Garden Grove.

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A quarter in which no points are allowed has a rarity to it. Since the 2010-11 campaign, Butch Fredlow’s final season as the Marina coach, winning has often eluded the Vikings, too.

Marina improved to 9-3 overall with the win, and the Vikings could be on their way to just their second winning campaign in the past eight seasons . First-year coach Daniel Roussel remarked that even he has been pleasantly surprised by the turnaround after the Vikings won just four games last season.

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Senior guard Katie Nguyen, a Daily Pilot Dream Team selection as a junior, led the Vikings’ returners, but it was clear that the Vikings could use secondary scoring. Marina has had greater balance this season, thanks in large part to Emily Sakamoto, a senior transfer from Westminster.

“Our new player, Emily Sakamoto, she has been bringing a lot of fire and she has taken a lot of pressure off of everyone else,” Nguyen said. “She is opening up new opportunities for everyone.

“She’s definitely taken a weight off of me, and it really helps because once someone helps on me, I can just kick it to her, and she can do what she does.”

Nguyen had 18 points, eight rebounds, six steals and three assists to lead the Vikings.

Marina High's Emily Sakamoto (11) scores against Buena Park during the first half of a Hawk Holiday Classic Soaring Flight game at Pacifica High on Thursday.
Marina High's Emily Sakamoto (11) scores against Buena Park during the first half of a Hawk Holiday Classic Soaring Flight game at Pacifica High on Thursday. (Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Sakamoto, a small forward, saved all of her scoring for the fourth quarter. She had six points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.

The Vikings also made the most of their second-chance opportunities, converting four layups directly off offensive rebounds. Junior center Greta Graeler had seven points and seven rebounds, bringing a physical presence in the paint.

“It’s pretty important,” Graeler said of offensive rebounding. “We’re always trying to be the most aggressive out there and getting all the rebounds. When the boards are open, or even if they’re not open, we still need to go hard to the boards, try to get that point in case it’s just wide-open there. Then we can hustle back.”

Outside of its stalwarts, Marina got contributions throughout its roster. Seven different players scored for the Vikings, and six players recorded at least one steal.

Roussel praised the defensive efforts of sophomore guard Kat Robinson and senior guard Kendall Healy, who combined for four of Marina’s 13 steals.

“Kat is always one of our best defenders and really sets the tone for us on the defensive end,” Roussel said. “We really focused on taking [Coyotes junior shooting guard Isabelle Avalos] out of the game today, trying to not let her catch the ball.

“Kendall Healy was the one who guarded her most of the game, and she did a really good job of taking the ball away from her.”

Avalos had three points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Her lone basket came on a three-pointer with 4:36 remaining.

Tyja Fields led the Coyotes (7-3) with seven points, and Donyea Smith added six points.

Marina will play the winner of Portola and Santa Ana in the Soaring Flight fifth-place game at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Pacifica.

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Hawk Holiday Classic

Marina 41, Buena Park 22

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Marina 10 – 12 – 6 – 13 — 41

Buena Park 0 – 8 – 6 – 8 — 22

M – Nguyen 18, Graeler 7, Sakamoto 6, Healy 4, Marsh 2, Huerta 2, Robinson 2.

3-pt. goals – Nguyen 2, Healy 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

BP – Fields 7, Smith 6, Avalos 3, Castillo 2, Washington 2, Hunt 1, Harris 1.

3-pt. goals – Fields 1, Avalos 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

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