Janae Omusi said while warming up she noticed Calimesa Mesa Grande didn’t seem quite as tall as she thought.
“When I saw that, I knew we could go inside,” said the junior, who did just that, controlling the paint while scoring 27 points and pulling down 12 rebounds to help Horizon’s girls roll to a 31-point halftime lead before cruising to a 70-40 basketball victory at home.
Win No. 26 on the season against seven losses catapulted the Panthers into the Southern California Regional Division V championship against Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on Saturday at Colony High in Ontario.
Meanwhile, the Horizon boys overcame a Los Angeles View Park team that started a front line that went 6-11, 6-11 and 6-8. The Panthers, whose tallest player is 6-3, managed to use their speed and quickness to also advance to the regional final for the first time since the 2005-06 season, 69-65.
The Horizon boys will play San Gabriel Academy at Colony High.
Markel Byrd, who finished with 22 points, buried two key free throws with 26 seconds to play and Darren Carrington, who scored 18, iced it with a free throw with a second to play to offset a 25-point game by 6-11 sophomore Brodricks Jones.
Cody Underwood scored 10 of his 18 points to push the Panthers (20-11) into the lead in the fourth quarter.
Horizon’s girls, who for the first time in the regionals did not have a running clock in the fourth quarter, also got a 20-point, 15-rebound game from freshman Di’Jonai Carrington, many off a full-court press that forced 16 turnovers and numerous easy baskets before Horizon called it off when the lead made it a certainty they would be advancing.
“We use the press to get the lead,” said Omusi. “What we want is to go to state.”
Clearly, playing in the Coastal League against teams like La Jolla Country Day and Bishop’s helped toughen up the Panthers, who raced to a 7-0 lead against a team that had won 22 straight games but against mostly Division V clubs.
Girls Open Division: Visiting La Jolla Country Day suffered a 52-46 setback to top-seeded L.A. Windward.
Boys Division II: Hoover dropped a 60-52 decision to host Redondo Union.
Girls Division II: Lynwood dominated visiting La Costa Canyon 67-39.
Boys Division IV: Army-Navy was ousted by Torrance Bishop Montgomery 75-56 at Oceanside High.