Vista Murrieta's Jaelyn Brown, steals the ball from Canyon Springs Charnea Johnson Chapman, during the CIF Southern California high school girls basketball regional semifinals.
MORENO VALLEY Once again it was one rotten quarter that doomed the Vista Murrieta girls basketball team.
Behind a 25-12 third-quarter run, Moreno Valley Canyon Springs knocked off the Broncos, 70-58, in the CIF Southern California Division I regional semifinals on Tuesday night.
The Cougars (24-9), who advanced to Saturday’s regional final versus Long Beach Poly in Ontario, are the only team to defeat Vista Murrieta (27-7) during an 18-game stretch dating back to Jan. 9.
Canyon Springs also eliminated the Broncos, 78-69, in the Southern Section Division IA semifinals on Feb. 26. Vista Murrieta coach Chris Jones singled out his team’s play in the second quarter of that game as the difference in the outcome.
In response, Jones’ point of emphasis on Tuesday was defending the Cougars’ fast break and controlling the glass.
In the first half, the Broncos executed the strategy to plan as they took a 27-22 lead into halftime.
Vista Murrieta gave Canyon Springs a little taste of its own medicine in the second period when Jaelyn Brown grabbed a defensive rebound and heaved a long pass across the court to Alexis Rivas, who scored on a layup.
Rivas’ 10 first-half points helped the Broncos control the second quarter as they finished the last two minutes on a 5-0 run.
“We stopped their transition game (in the first half),” Vista Murrieta guard Serafina Maulupe said. “Whenever we got steals, we converted. Our defense was great. Every time we got a steal and we scored on it.”
However, the sleeping giant would finally wake up in the third quarter as the Broncos’ lead quickly evaporated in the first two minutes. Eight different Cougars players scored in the period. In the third, Canyon Springs scored 10 points off fast breaks and dominated the key with the presence of 6-foot-3 centers Charnea Johnson Chapman and Dre’mel Spencer.
Johnson Chapman finished with 12 points, 18 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“We lost some composure in the third quarter,” Jones said. “I think they were a little bit shocked the way the game switched so fast. We didn’t maintain composure and probably gave up a few more points in that third.”
Rivas agreed with her coaches’ assessment by stating, “a lot of it was rebounding and us panicking and making dumb turnovers.”
With starting guard Yuendie Guridi out because of an injury, Vista Murrieta had difficulty defending the guard tandem of Cheyenne Greenhouse (16 points) and Ashleigh Sparks (19 points).
“It takes away a perimeter defender for us,” said Jones of Guridi’s absence. “Against a team like this that’s driving to the basket as much as they are, it hurts.”
Vista Murrieta fought valiantly until the end, trailing by 61-56 to the Southern Section Division 1A champions with 51 seconds to play.
Maulupe, the Southwestern League MVP and all-Valley player of the year, had 12 points and four steals in her final game with Vista Murrieta. Fellow senior Rivas scored 12 points too.
It was Brown, the all-league freshman, who gave a rosy glimpse into the future with her 19 points, 13 rebounds, four blocked shots and four steals. The Broncos return nine of their 12 players in 2013-14.
“They’re going to do fine without me,” said Maulupe, bound for Virginia Tech next year. “With Jaelyn and Brittney (Reed), they are going to have to rise and become better players. Leitasi (Cravens), she’s going to have to become a better point guard. With Yuendie and Tatiana (Navarro), they are just going to have to get better on the wing, get better with the shooting.”