Vista Murrieta Advances to Regional Basketball Final

Brittney Reed takes a short jump shot during Vista Murrieta's CIF State Regional playoff game Tuesday night. Photos by Daniel Millho...

Brittney Reed takes a short jump shot during Vista Murrieta's CIF State Regional playoff game Tuesday night.
Photos by Daniel Millhouse

By Daniel Millhouse

Going into halftime with a slim lead of 24-20, Vista Murrieta High School’s girls basketball players found it in themselves to dig deep and come out firing to win against Oaks Christian 62-49 Tuesday night in the CIF Southern California Regional semifinals.

"I was pleased where we were because I didn’t think we played very well," Vista Murrieta coach Kurt Ruth said about his team’s play in the first half. "I felt like defensively we did some good things, but offensively we were out of sync."

"We needed to be more aggressive in scoring," Vista Murrieta’s Brittney Reed responded when asked about their play in the first half. "Get the ball inside to Jaelyn (Brown). Just get the ball inside, period. Get offensive rebounds."

Their success in doing so guaranteed the Broncos a berth in the Southern California Division I Regional final Saturday in Long Beach. Vista will face Brea Olinda at 1 p.m. in the Walter Pyramid Arena, home of Long Beach State basketball.

After taking the time to regroup in the locker room during the half, Vista Murrieta (30-4) put the Lions of Oaks Christian on their heels, going on a 19-2 scoring run in the first four minutes of the third quarter, nearly doubling their total in the first half. Keilanei Cooper led the Broncos during this run, scoring 6 of her team’s 19 points.

The Lions (22-9) finished the third quarter with a 10-3 run themselves, but found themselves in the hole by 10 points when the third quarter ended. At no point would Oaks Christian find themselves closer than eight points for the rest of the game.

The Lions’ star player, senior Katie Campbell, was held to only three points, which she scored in the second quarter. Superb defense by Vista Murrieta senior Nasrin Ulel shut down Campbell, who has a 17-point scoring average for the season.

"Basically we said, ‘Don’t let her out of your sight,’" Ruth said with a laugh after the game. "That girl (Campbell) is going to Washington State for a reason. She shot 49 percent from 3-point range this year. Eighty seven percent from the free throw line. The girl is a special player. (Ulel's) only responsibility was know where she (Campbell) is at all times. You don’t even have to know where the ball is, just know where she is. If she doesn’t have it, then we’re in good shape.”

Ulel wasn’t the only Bronco to provide stellar defense for her team. Brown (left), back from a devastating injury that cost her 10 months, took two charges in the first half alone, forcing Oaks Christian players to avoid driving in the paint. When they tried to put the ball in the paint again in the fourth quarter, Ulel took a charge by Campbell, pumping up her team and the home crowd.

Oaks Christian had to rely heavily on its other two best scorers, Roxy Barahman and Sydney Boyer, to stay afloat. Barahman scored 26 points and Boyer scored 16. Unfortunately for the Lions, they were two of only four players to score at all and the only players to score more than four points for their team.

Vista Murrieta’s offense was more even handed and spread out. Five players scored more than eight points, led by Reed, who scored 16 and Cooper, who scored 13 points.

Ruth was asked how playing in the 5,000-seat Pyramid venue would affect his team.

"I think it will affect us and our opponent," he said. "Playing in an arena, I’ve been fortunate enough to coach in a CIF final at the Honda Center. You come out in warm-ups and there’s a different depth perception. I think the good thing for us is that we have so many high caliber players that have played in those type of venues. We did get to play a game in the preseason this year at the Staples Center, which was nice for us because we got that opportunity to play in that big arena."

After the game, Reed was asked what her team needed to do going into the Regional Finals this week.

"We just have to come in focused," she said. "We have to know what we are there for, know what we’re working towards."

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