Previously, the Barons had faced the Griffins away in a 37-52 loss. The Barons returned home following a league loss against Corona del Mar which snapped their three-game winning streak. Hoping for a win, the Barons wished to maintain their potential opportunity for a spot in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section (CIF-SS) playoffs.
“[We] wanted to win this one,” Fountain Valley head coach Marianne Karp said. “[Our record] is not level… I know Division 2A has a lot of holes. I don’t know if CIF will go with a shorter group of teams or expand to allow schools without a winning record. [CIF] would be great and a really solid experience for my players, but it’s out of our hands now.”
Additionally, this Senior Night game recognized the contributions of the team’s seniors. Seniors Mary Nguyen, Alana Flores, Dianna Burke, Malia Kawakubo and Mars Shepard took the floor to start the game off for the Barons. The enthusiastic chants of “Let’s Go Barons” washed out the Griffins’ bench chanting “Defense!” as the Fountain Valley supporters rallied behind their seniors.
“This year was a challenging year for us. We had a lot of challenges in front of us, as individuals and as a team. We battled through them,” Karp said. “I’m proud of the girls for doing that.”
Nguyen and Kawakubo led the scoring for the Barons, scoring 12 and eight points respectively. To secure second-chance scoring opportunities, Burke and Kawakubo dominated rebounding for the Barons while also maintaining solid defense against the Griffins. While recording some steals, Nguyen mainly facilitated the Barons’ ball movement.
The Griffins began the game with a three-pointer, but Kawakubo quickly responded by assisting Burke for two points. Kawakubo scored a free throw to seize the lead with a score of 3-2.
For the next two minutes, both sides held a strong defense. For the Barons, Shepard blocked a shot and Flores drew a charge. Nguyen stole the ball and scored following a fastbreak. Shortly after, Los Alamitos responded with a jumper to tie the game.
Throughout the rest of the quarter, the Barons scored points through consistent free throw shooting by Kawakubo, Nguyen and freshman Sophie Hsieh. The Griffins scored a three-pointer, but a block by Burke ended the quarter with the Barons leading 11-8.
Junior Melody Nishi scored a three-pointer to begin the second quarter, but the Griffins quickly responded with a three-pointer of their own along with the conversion of an and-one play. For the remaining four minutes of the quarter, the Barons struggled to match the scoring of the Griffins, who went on a run for a lead of 17-27. Nguyen scored a layup to end the quarter with the Barons trailing by eight points.
To commence the third quarter, the Barons demonstrated skillful ball movement but again struggled to score as the Griffins scored four more points for a 19-31 lead. Shepard responded with two points, and, with 5:15 remaining, Burke responded with her own shot following a Griffins’ three-pointer.
Freshman Kailey Nishi disrupted the momentum of the Griffins by stopping a fastbreak and scoring a three-pointer to lessen the deficit to 26-36 with 3:10 remaining in the quarter. Adding on, Kawakubo stopped the Griffins’ maneuvers and Nguyen stole another ball. With 1:33 remaining, Kawakubo scored a three-pointer. The Griffins responded with a scored free throw, but Hsieh stole the ball to assist Nguyen. The quarter ended 31-37.
Although the Griffins opened the next quarter’s scoring, the Barons started off strong with Kawakubo driving to the basket to score. Furthermore, with 5:44 remaining, Nguyen pump faked and sidestepped past a Griffin defender to score a three-pointer, closing the score to 36-39.
Both sides struggled to score with Burke and Kawakubo securing important rebounds as well as Hsieh drawing a charge. Despite the Barons turning over the ball on offense, they compensated with strong defense. The scoring drought was broken when Burke scored a jumper with two minutes remaining.
With a one-point lead, the Griffins and Barons both called a series of timeouts. The Griffins committed a shot clock violation with 34.9 seconds remaining, providing the Barons with the opportunity to have the last possession of the game. Both Nguyen and Kawakubo missed a three-pointer, ending the game with the Barons losing 38-39.
Despite the loss, Karp recognized the team’s improvement throughout the season.
“Our defense was really strong. We just needed to make one basket,” Karp said. “It was tough to work so hard to come back, and then not to finish it off. I’m super proud of how hard my kids play, and it’s probably the best game I’ve seen them play together.
The Barons played their final game on Wednesday, Feb. 1, in an away-league matchup against Newport Harbor High School.
“I hope the [team] has fun. I hope they enjoy the last game,” Karp said. “I just hope they have a really good time, enjoy their camaraderie and finish off strong.”