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CIF basketball: Depth charge

Stone, supporting cast carry Canyon in second-round rout of Segerstrom

Posted: February 23, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 23, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Canyon forward Jaya Schultz (21) tries to put up a shot as Segerstrom defender Kayla Stephens tries to block during the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA playoffs on Wednesday at Segerstrom High in Santa Ana.

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SANTA ANA — Nearly a month ago, Canyon girls basketball head coach Chuck Johns, frustration in his voice, said depth was the Cowboys’ biggest issue this season.

Never would that issue be tested more than Wednesday night at Segerstrom High in Santa Ana.

Despite Canyon center Alia McCoy playing just three minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and forward Jaya Schultz being bothered by a leg injury in the second half, Canyon defeated Segerstrom 57-38 in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA playoffs.

The reason — the Canyon rock, Tiffini Stone scored 25 points and her surrounding cast was nearly flawless in filling in on offense and defense for the Cowboy duo.

“We’ve found the chemistry as a team,” Stone said. “That’s how we win. That’s what happened today.”

Canyon (22-6) jumped out to a 17-2 lead in the first quarter with Stone and Schultz being the aggressors on offense and everyone being the aggressors on defense.

Despite the Jaguars matching up well with the Cowboys in size, Canyon held the strength and energy advantage. Throw in Stone’s smarts, as she toyed with Segerstrom’s defense with pump fakes and positioning all night long, and Canyon was able to maintain a sizeable lead at halftime when it took a 28-15 advantage into the break.

“We didn’t come out with a lot of energy,” said Jaguars head coach Jeff Watts. “I thought we had pretty good looks, but they were physically a little stronger.”

Segerstrom (21-7) also struggled from the field, making just 6-of-23 shots in the first half.

The Jaguars’ top scorer on the season, Kayla Stephens, was held to just three points in the game. Vanessa Rea led the team with 10 points.

Compounding the Jaguars’ issues were turnovers, as they made 13 in the first half and 21 in the game.

For Canyon, it was a huge turnaround from the Cowboys’ first-round victory over Redlands when they turned the ball over 27 times. Canyon made 11 on Wednesday night.

The game was never close in the second half — not with the play of usual role players Leilani Okihara, Kali Vittallo, Marissa Schwimmer and Delaney McCann playing big.

Okihara and Vittallo played mostly mistake free in the backcourt, with both guards playing nearly the whole game.

Schwimmer threw in some admirable defense off the bench against bigger girls and McCann, a freshman, gave Canyon a break with McCoy out and had no drop off defensively.

McCoy played just 12 minutes in the game, but scored all her 10 points in the second half.

Schultz scored 11, but missed most of the second half with a recurring left leg injury. Johns said he didn’t know her status for the quarterfinals.

This is the third straight season Canyon has made the quarterfinals, all under Johns. No girls basketball team in this valley has enjoyed the success of the Cowboys in that span.

“I think we always talk about getting better in practice. But we seem to peak at the right time,” Johns said. “I think we have kids who get up for big games.”

Standing in Canyon’s way for a second straight trip to the semifinals is Keppel — the tournament’s No. 1 seed. Canyon will play at Keppel on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Cowboys lost to Keppel 64-60 on Dec. 20.

But Canyon is playing its best basketball of the season.

“We’re hungry for it,” Stone said. “We want it so bad. We want to go farther than last year.”


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