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Prep girls hoops: Canyon falls in quarters to Lynwood

Posted: February 23, 2013 10:35 p.m.
Updated: February 23, 2013 10:35 p.m.

Canyon High's Alia McCoy (23) shoots against Lynwood High defender Jazmine Johnson (1) at Lynwood on Saturday in their CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA quarterfinal.

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LYNWOOD — Why has Canyon girls basketball been the best winter sports team in the Santa Clarita Valley over the last four years?

Because of its fight.

After a miserable first half, the Cowboys fought back against the Lynwood Knights Saturday in the CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA quarterfinals, cutting what was a 17-point halftime deficit to a two-point fourth quarter disadvantage.

But without arguably the school’s greatest player ever, Canyon was unable to respond to Lynwood’s pressure and lost 43-39 at Lynwood High.

“It’s really hard. Really sad,” said Canyon senior Alia McCoy. “This is the last game in high school playing with these girls. This was one of my favorite teams.”

One of because there were four for McCoy and Jaya Schultz, who leave Canyon with four Foothill League titles and a 10-5 playoff record.

McCoy, who is the school’s all-time leading scorer, fouled out of the game with 5:32 to play in the fourth quarter, after scoring 12 points.

Canyon trailed 32-28 at the time.

But the fact that Canyon (24-5) was that close that late was a minor miracle.

The Cowboys trailed 15-5 after the first quarter and 24-7 at halftime.

Lynwood’s defense was something Canyon hadn’t seen, and it showed.

The defending Division IIAA champions forced 17 turnovers in the first half.

Canyon was being pressured in the backcourt and on every inbound pass.

“That’s our style of play,” said Lynwood head coach Ellis Barfield. “We had to raise it another level. The biggest thing was to play smart, and we had to open the court up and make it a fullcourt game.”

Canyon made just two field goals in the first half to Lynwood’s 10.

Lynwood’s Alize Lofton, the San Gabriel Valley League’s co-MVP, scored nine of her team-high 13 points in the first half.

“The first half we were a little timid. We weren’t used to a team like that,” Schultz said. “In the second half we adjusted.”

Big time.

Before the Cowboys came out of the locker room, Canyon head coach Chuck Johns said he gave his girls a chance to talk the struggles out amongst themselves.

They adjusted and moved the ball up the court quickly and mounted their comeback.

Defense was never an issue for Canyon in the game, so with that staying steady, the offense came along.

The Cowboys hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter, including guard Kali Vittallo’s only points of the game. It was her 12th three of the postseason.

Canyon trailed 30-22 going into the fourth.

Helping was the Knights’ foul trouble, as they had four girls with four fouls midway through the final period.

Canyon cut the lead to 32-28 on a Delaney McCann layup, then McCoy was called for a reach-in and was out of the game.

“I tried to hold (the tears) in. I felt like I let my team down,” McCoy said. “But they kept it up and I felt like we got this.”

Schultz kept her team going. She scored 10 of her 13 points in the final frame.

With three minutes to play, McCann made 1-of-2 free throws, cutting Lynwood’s lead to 33-31.

It was as close as Canyon would get.

The Knights (22-5) went on an 8-0 run, extending the lead to 41-31.

They closed off all driving lanes and smothered Canyon at the 3-point line with their zone defense.

Schultz hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer — the final mark on Canyon’s stellar four-year run.

Johns said the cupboard isn’t bare for the future.

But this was certainly an ending.

Canyon girls basketball represented the Santa Clarita Valley like no other winter sports team the last four years.

Why?

Talent, sure — but effort and fight.

“It’s always been that way,” Johns said of his team’s Saturday comeback. “They never give up.”

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