Lakeside's Kianna Williams, right, moves the ball around Perris High's Cindy Saldana, at midcourt during the teams' game Thursday night. Williams finished with a team-high 21 points.
PERRIS LANDON NEGRI • U-T
If the Perris High girls basketball team wanted to make a statement Thursday night, the Panthers didn’t have to say much.
Iman Lathan and her teammates spoke loud enough with their performance.
Lathan, the Temecula Valley High transfer, had 27 points and 12 rebounds as the Panthers rebuffed visiting Lakeside, 73-38, for a head-turning Sunbelt League victory.
The Lancers (20-4, 7-1), ranked No. 3 in CIF Southern Section Division III-AA, would have clinched an unlikely Sunbelt League championship with a victory. Instead, Perris (17-7, 6-2) stayed in the title hunt while snapping the Lancers’ 11-game winning streak.
Perris, ranked 16th in Division II-AA, is a perennial power that usually owns the Sunbelt League. The Panthers have won five out of the last six league titles.
But Lakeside downed the Panthers 73-65 on Jan. 15 to take control of the league race. Perris, apparently, hadn’t forgotten about that game.
“We feel like we’re one of the best teams in Southern California,” Lathan said, “and we want to prove that we are, even if our record doesn’t reflect it.”
Lathan paced the Panthers on Thursday, shooting 12-of-19 from the field while scoring 18 in the second half as Perris pulled away.
A year ago, she averaged 25 points per game for Temecula Valley. As a senior, the Nevada-commit has been just as valuable, if not more, for Perris.
“She has a motor, man,” longtime Perris coach Marvin Williams said. “She has a motor that just won’t quit.”
All of the Panthers were firing on all cylinders Thursday, as they buried Lakeside after a tight first quarter.
Perris led 34-22 at the half and 49-31 after three quarters.
Lakeside had been so sharp in recent games, but it was erratic and out of step offensively for much of the night. The Lancers shot 23 percent (13-of-57) from the field and 14 percent (3-of-21) from beyond the arc.
Only junior guard Kianna Williams (21 points and eight rebounds) produced significantly.
“We used to say this when you were fighting Mike Tyson,” Lakeside coach Anthony Williams said. “Everybody has a plan until you get hit, and then you start reverting and getting desprate.”
Lakeside still holds a one-game lead in league with two to go. The Lancers finish their schedule next week at home against Heritage and at Paloma Valley.
“We’ve had a lot of success to date — but things are on the line now,” Williams said. “But you know what? This might be a good thing. This might be what we need to re-channel that energy and focus.”