Vista Murrieta's Rally Falls Short in Playoff Loss

Vista Murrieta guard Victoria Chea steals the ball to set up a fast break during Wednesday night's CIF playoff game. Photos by Daniel...

Vista Murrieta guard Victoria Chea steals the ball to set up a fast break during Wednesday night's CIF playoff game.
Photos by Daniel Millhouse

By Daniel Millhouse

The Vista Murrieta High School girls basketball team entered Wednesday night's CIF-SS Open Division quarterfinal game as the favorites to win against Windward High of Los Angeles, but the Broncos quickly found themselves behind from the start of the game, eventually losing, 74-72.

Outside shooting and second-chance points gave the Wildcats of Windward (21-5) the edge and just enough to hold on to victory in the end. Windward led by 10 points (63-53) with 3:35 left in the game before Vista Murrieta rallied, but the Broncos came up just short.

Nasrin Ulel sank two free throws, Vista Murrieta’s full-court press took effect and Victoria Chea scored on a fast break layup to cut the lead down to five with a minute and a half left in the game. After Windward scored two more points, Jaelyn Brown was able to take the ball back to the other end with another fast break and score two points on a layup, leaving the score at 68-63 with 37 seconds remaining.

The Broncos had to foul to stop the clock. Windward’s Jayde Woods sank both of her free throws to give her team a seven-point lead with 33 seconds left. Rushing back down to the other end, Brown quickly sank a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left, cutting the lead down to four.

The Broncos' Chea was hit with a foul on Charisma Osborne on Windward's inbounds pass, sending the hot shooter to the foul line. She made the first free throw, but missed the second. Unfortunately, what plagued Vista Murrieta throughout the game once again hit them at this moment. Woods grabbed the offensive rebound and was instantly fouled, sending her to the line. Woods also went 1 for 2 from the line, pushing the score back up to 72-66 with 24 seconds remaining.

Undeterred, the Broncos passed the ball around to look for the open shooter. They found her in the form of Keilani Cooper, who hit the clutch 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining.

The Broncos quickly fouled the Wildcats and sent Osborne back to foul line. She sank both attempts and gave her team a 74-69 lead with eight seconds left. Vista Murrieta was able to find Brown open on the other end and she hit another 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded. At first the Broncos fans cheered, but it only took a second for everyone to realize that it wasn’t enough. The final score was 74-72.

In the first quarter, Osborne led the Wildcats, hitting four 3-pointers in that quarter alone along with two 3-pointers sunk by Daniella Samuel. Together, the pair scored all 22 points scored by Windward in the quarter.

The Wildcats hung tough on the offensive side of the ball, led by senior Brittney Reed (left), who scored eight points in the quarter, six of which came from layups. After one quarter of play, Windward held a 22-16 lead.

Brown took over on offense at the start of the second quarter, scoring eight points within two minutes and contributing to two more with an assist to a layup by Brittney Reed. This helped the Broncos cut the Wildcats’ lead to two with 5:45 left in the half. Unfortunately, on the defensive end, the Wildcats were able to snag second and even third chance opportunities that led to a 16-4 scoring run. Sela Kay drilled two 3-pointers and Osborne hit two more to give the Wildcats nine 3-pointers for the first half and a 44-30 lead going into halftime.

Coming back out onto the court after discussing game plan changes at halftime, the Broncos (26-3) sprung back to life when Ulel scored seven points in the first 90 seconds of the half, once again cutting Windward’s lead in half. Ulel provided the same spark in the third quarter that she did in the first round, when she hit two 3-pointers in 10 seconds against Harvard-Westlake High School.

Caught off guard, Windward’s Coach Vanessa Nygaard was quick to call a timeout to rip into her team’s lack of energy. Windward responded to the Vista Murrieta 7-0 run by going on their own 6-0 run when they were able to gain several more second shot opportunities on offense. Halfway through the third quarter, the Wildcats held a 50-37 lead.

Vista Murrieta refused to roll over. The Broncos went on another 7-0 run that was started when Reed sank a 12-foot jumper. Less than 20 seconds later, Sharyah Cotton hit a 3-pointer. Only seconds after this, Chea stole the ball away from Windward and dished off a pass to Ulel for a fast break layup, pulling the Broncos to within 50-44 with 2:36 left in the third quarter.

The Wildcats scored four more points in a row, but the Broncos kept it close, scoring four points in the final 20 seconds behind a 10-foot shot by Cooper, followed by two free throws sunk by Brown with three seconds left. This put the score at 54-48 with one quarter of play to go.

Vista Murrieta cut the Windward lead down to three points when Reed scored on a layup with 5:20 left in the game, putting the score at 56-53.
Osborne turned the heat back on after being held to no points in the third quarter. She hit two free throws and another 3-pointer, leading her team to another 7-0 run and what appeared to seal the victory for the visitors.

With 3:35 left in the game, Windward led 63-53. After trading points back and forth, Vista Murrieta refused to give up. With 1:57 left and the score at 66-57 after Samuel sunk another 3-pointer for Windward, the momentum swung in the Broncos' favor. Ultimately, it wasn't enough.

Brown led her Vista Murrieta with 26 points, including four 3-pointers in what was only her second game back from an injury plagued season. Reed contributed with 16 points, Cooper had 12, and Ulel had 11.

Windward was led by Osborne, who scored 31 points, including six 3-pointers. Samuel scored 14 points, which included hitting four 3-pointers, and Woods scored 13. As a team, Windward hit 12 3-pointers in the game.

Jaelyn Brown goes up strong for a shot in the fourth quarter.

Keilani Cooper shoots over a defender Wednesday night.





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