Burroughs girls’ basketball holds off Whittier Christian in CIF playoff opener

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(Photo By: Edward Tovmassian)

The CIF Southern Section Division 2AA girls’ basketball playoff opener at Burroughs High on Thursday grouped two teams that are familiar with one another.

In a rematch of last season’s Division 2A quarterfinal, the No. 11-ranked Burroughs hosted Whittier Christian in another tightly contested postseason matchup. 

The two battled and were deadlocked early in the fourth quarter, but with nearly three minutes left in regulation, Burroughs broke away from the Whittier Christian stranglehold with a late scoring run to win the first-round game, 55-45.

“In the playoffs especially, it’s a game of runs,” Burroughs coach Vicky Oganyan said. “You know the other team is going to make a run, so just to have a great start in the beginning was good. They kind of made a run and we had to take their punches, but I liked how we responded.”

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Wary of its opponents, Burroughs was on high-alert against Whittier Christian and its drive to avenge last season’s loss.

And with three starting seniors graduating high school immediately after the game, the Bears didn’t want to take any chances.

“We knew that we beat them once and that we could do it again,” Burroughs junior Noor Fahs said. “We just need to play hard. We played a lot of difficult games this season and I think that coach did a great job of preparing us for the type of pressure that we met today. It’s been building up since the beginning of the season and today, we showed what we really had.”

Tied at 42 with 3:58 left, the Bears (12-8 overall) pulled ahead when senior Faith Boulanger knocked down a three-pointer at the top of the key.

Burroughs sophomore Isabella Roderick’s presence under the post boosted the host’s lead to 49-43 with a pair of put-backs before a three from senior Dyani Del Castillo made it a nine-point advantage with 1:31 left.

With 49.1 left, Roderick battled in the paint for a basket and capped a 12-1 run for a 54-43 lead in which she contributed six points. 

The sophomore finished with seven points and 11 rebounds, five of which were on the offensive end in the fourth quarter. 

Boulanger went 4 of 6 from three for a game-high 24 points to go along with six rebounds and four steals for the Pacific League runner-ups. Fahs pitched in with nine points, five assists and six steals and Del Castillo knocked down three three-pointers for nine points.

Whittier Christian (9-8) was led by senior Juliette Corona with 18 points and three steals. Heralds senior Emma Eaton chipped in with 12 points. Corona and Eaton both scored three three-pointers for the Olympic League runner-up. 

Boulanger contributed five points on the Bears’ 10-0 run in the opening minutes of the game before the Heralds overcame their turnovers down the stretch of the quarter to cut the Bears’ lead to 15-6 at the end of the frame.

Whittier Christian turned the tide in the second quarter and forced five Burroughs turnovers on its 12-1 run to tie it at 18 with 3:08 in the half. 

Free throws from Heralds senior Magan Lemke gave the visitors the 22-20 halftime lead.

“That’s who they are,” Whittier Christian coach Whitley Brown said. “They don’t give up. They’re always battling. They’re always fighting. I couldn’t be more proud of their effort.”

Burroughs went 1-for-7 from the field in the quarter.

“The most important thing I try to emphasize was not letting the other team out-hustle us,” Oganyan said. “…They played really hard as you can tell. They wanted to beat us. I told my team they had to be prepared for that. It was a game of waves. In the second quarter, they kind of took the momentum, but I was proud of the way we were able to respond to that.”

Eaton scored back-to-back threes to start the second half with a 28-22 lead, but the Bears responded with a 10-0 run with a pair of threes from Boulanger and Del Castillo. 

A three from Corona made it a one-point difference, but with 10 seconds left in the quarter, a steal and finish from Fahs put the hosts up 34-31 heading into the fourth.