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LOS ANGELES — Orange Lutheran’s girls basketball team added another chapter to its impressive postseason Tuesday night.
Call it “The L.A. Comeback.”
The CIF-SS Division 1 champion Lancers rallied to defeat L.A. City Section Open Division champion Westchester 62-59 in a Division I first-round game of the CIF Southern California Regional that delivered a thrilling, back-and-forth final quarter.
The visiting Lancers (25-7) came back from an 11-point deficit in the middle of the third quarter and received a go-ahead 3-pointer from Shea Joko with 35 seconds left to advance to the second round. The victory came one season after Orange Lutheran lost in the first round of the Division II regional to Brentwood.
“We didn’t want our season to end,” said junior post Taliyah McFerson, who scored 13 of her team-high 20 points in the second half. “We want to keep going. We’re not ready to be done.”
Orange Lutheran, seeded ninth, will play host to No. 16 Chaminade, one of its foes in Division 1, in the second round Thursday. Chaminade knocked off top-seeded Ontario Christian 88-65 in the first round of the regional playoffs.
The Lancers defeated Chaminade 78-68 in the Division 1 semifinals.
“They got their rematch,” Orange Lutheran interim coach Alex Helmage said of Chaminade. “Now it’s state playoffs. (Our) girls love each other so much, they don’t want the season to end and it showed in the second half.”
The Lancers trailed 42-31 in the middle of the third period before closing on a 10-5 run to trim the lead to 47-41.
Orange Lutheran took its first lead since early in the opening period at 52-51 on a running baseline floater by Princess Cassell with 3:39 left in the fourth quarter.
But the big shots were only just starting.
Westchester’s Ron’yae Jackson, a Cal State L.A. commit, responded with a 3-pointer to give the Comets (29-2) a 54-52 lead.
Joko countered with her own 3-pointer with 2:23 left, giving Orange Lutheran a 55-54 advantage.
Westchester regained the lead again on the next possession on a jumper by point guard Rylei Waugh, whose sister Reigne added a free throw to make it 57-55 with 1:19 remaining.
But McFerson scored inside to knot the score at 57-57 with 1:05 left, and following a basket by No. 8 seed Westchester, Joko drained her fourth 3-pointer to make it 60-59 with 35 seconds left.
The junior guard sank two foul shots with 16.9 seconds left, capping her 12-point fourth quarter, and then reached behind a dribbler for a late steal, burning time the Comets desperately needed.
“I didn’t want our season to end at all because we have a really good sisterhood,” Joko said. “We have two great seniors (Madi Bogan and Heaven Johnson) and we want to spend as much time (together) as we can.”
Cassell scored five of her 13 points in the fourth period, including a key 3-pointer early in the frame after a block by Bogan.
Jackson and Rylei Waugh finished with 22 and 16 points, respectively, for the Comets, who claimed their first Open title in the L.A. City.
“They just hit big buckets,” Westchester coach Dominic Grimes said of the Lancers. “(Our) defense fell apart, especially at the 3-point line. You can’t let a team just dribble down the floor and pull up uncontested. That kind of hurt us down the stretch.”
In Division II
San Juan Hills 60, Mater Dei Catholic 49: Anna Shreeve had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Sydney Peterson added 12 points and 15 rebounds to lead the host Stallions to their first regional victory. No. 6 San Juan Hills plays at No. 3 La Salle on Thursday in the second round.
In Division III
El Dorado 60, Palisades 37: Senior Avery Shiring recorded 25 points and 15 rebounds to leads the visiting No. 7 Golden Hawks, who advance play at No. 2 Redondo on Thursday.