Girls’ Basketball: Huntington Beach edges Los Al

(Andrew Turner | Daily Pilot)

LOS ALAMITOS — The last time that Huntington Beach High beat Los Alamitos in girls’ basketball, Frankie Wade-Sanchez and Kaylyn Nakaji were both freshmen.

Therefore, it seems fitting that while the senior duo did its part, a newcomer to the rivalry would provide the biggest assist in a critical Sunset League game.

A pair of free throws from Xolani Hodel broke a tie with 26 seconds remaining, and the Oilers held on to beat the Griffins, 48-46, on Monday night at Los Alamitos High.

The win pulls the Oilers (15-7, 5-1 in league) even with the Griffins (16-5, 5-1) for first place in the Sunset League.

Los Alamitos’ Cailyn Crocker had connected on two free throws with 55 seconds left to put the Griffins ahead, 46-45.

When Wade-Sanchez had her opportunity to respond after getting fouled driving to the basket, she made the first but missed the second. Hodel grabbed the rebound, and a reach-in foul sent her to the line for a one-and-one opportunity.

Seemingly unfazed by the moment, the freshman center looked calm and collected in making both attempts, assuring that the electric Los Alamitos backcourt could not win the game on a drive to the hoop.

“I was so relieved that I made those two,” Hodel said. “Honestly, I was really nervous in the beginning.”

Los Alamitos opted to go for the win anyway. Sydney Gandy had already made three shots from beyond the arc when she hoisted a potential go-ahead 3-pointer. It caught the back iron.

Crocker, who had 18 points, snared the rebound, but she couldn’t find a shooting lane. The ball came back out to the three-point line.

Huntington Beach was able to chase Gandy off the line this time. The Griffins freshman guard found Jade Galloway in the paint, and she was fouled with a chance to tie the game with 1.1 seconds on the clock.

Galloway’s first free throw was long, forcing her to miss the second intentionally. Wade-Sanchez rebounded the next one, and the Oilers celebrated on the court.

“I feel like I could cry, I’m so proud of everyone,” Wade-Sanchez said. “I talked to [my teammates] before the game, and all I asked was that they try their hardest. I truly with all my heart believe that they did that.”

Hodel had 10 points, 15 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Wade-Sanchez scored a game-high 20 points with eight rebounds, and Nakaji had 12 points and nine rebounds.

The Oilers’ young center did not play in the first league meeting. Huntington Beach sorely missed Hodel’s size and athleticism as it tried in vain to keep Crocker out of the lane in the earlier close loss at home.

On Monday night, Hodel made sure her presence was felt. She had six rebounds in the first quarter.

In the fourth, Hodel and Wade-Sanchez made quite a connection. Hodel, who also plays volleyball, showcased some of those skills when she hung in the air and finished off a lob from the senior to cut the Los Alamitos lead to 41-37 with four minutes to go.

“That really ignited our crowd, and you could see us go on a run when she got going,” Oilers Coach Russell McClurg said. “She’s special, and it was great to see her show the fans and everybody else why she’s special.”

Wade-Sanchez had 10 points and Hodel added six in the final period. Huntington Beach trailed, 37-29, entering the quarter.

The Oilers finally tied it, 44-44, on an offensive rebound and putback by Nakaji with 1:48 remaining. The senior shooting guard also came up big earlier in the game, making a layup and a three-pointer in the final two mintues of the first half to send the Oilers into the break with a 21-20 lead.

Prior to the contest, McClurg implored his team to give him all it had as the “dark horse” of the matchup. It would be no easy task to upset a team on the CIF Southern Section’s Open Division Watch List, but playing the two-time defending Sunset League champions for the last time in their careers was a good source of motivation for the team’s six seniors.

“I guess you could say that it’s the cherry on top this season,” Nakaji said. “We knew how important this game was and how hard we were going to have to play. I’m so excited.”

Sunset League

Huntington Beach 48, Los Alamitos 46


Huntington Beach – 8 - 13 - 8 - 19 – 48

Los Alamitos – 11 - 9 - 17 - 9 – 46

HB – Wade-Sanchez 20, Nakaji 12, Hodel 10, Dang 2, Tanga 2, Soedel 2.

3-pt. goals – Wade-Sanchez 1, Nakaji 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

Los Al – Crocker 18, Gandy 9, Clarke 7, Burdette 4, Yamami 3, Avinger 3, Galloway 2.

3-pt. goals – Gandy 3, Yamami 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.