Pressure defense sparks Griffin girls hoops to win

Los Alamitos girls basketball program looks like contenders

Emie Chen races for a loose ball after breaking up an offensive attack for a steal. Photo by Ted Apodaca

Using a stifling press defense, the Los Alamitos High girls basketball team jumped out to a big early lead and had little trouble holding off Canyon High of Anaheim with a 63-32 non-league win on Saturday at Los Alamitos High.

The Griffins’ defense created several steals and turnovers as Los Al jumped out to quick 10-2 lead. After a 20-2 lead, Canyon found some room to score, Los Al still took a 35-12 lead into halftime. The Griffins improved to 7-1 with the win.

Nearly every player who played scored during the game, but the Griffins were led by three who reached double digits. Kayli Liew led the way with 16 points and Megan Lee followed with 12. Kassidy Beach added 10 points, but the driving force in the game was the team defense and the full-court press. Head coach Maya Kennedy said they have worked hard on it and she hopes it can take the team to a new level.

“We’re getting really good at it, that’s what’s so fun to see is that they’re just understanding the rotation, they know where they have to be, and when they understand it, and they could almost teach it to each other, that’s when they really get after it,” Kennedy said.

The Griffins are in their third year with Kennedy at the helm. In the first year, the team was transitioning to the new philosophy and the Griffins had struggles. Last year, they improved to a .500 record and earned a CIF-SS Division 3A playoff berth, but were eliminated in the first round by Montclair.

This year Los Al is off to a 7-1 start and are ranked No. 3 in the CIF-SS Division 3A rankings. Kennedy said that the starting five have developed a confidence to be aggressive and unafraid to take shots. She is hopeful that the rest of the roster will build up to that to give them depth throughout the rotation.

Kennedy said the team is getting to the point where they are playing aggressive on the floor and also have a supportive culture on and off the floor. She said she stresses to the players they are all valuable, “So, just be here, be present, be encouraging for teammates, and you’re contributing to the game” Kennedy said.

The Griffins are back in action this weekend with back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. Los Al will host Trabuco Hills High on Friday at 7 p.m. and then travel to Valencia High in Placentia on Saturday for a 6 p.m. game. They will host El Toro on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Both should be tough tests for the Griffins who may be on the verge of stepping up to a new level.

“It takes a few years to get your culture in place, but now we’re kind of rolling with it now,” Kennedy said.