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A slight setback can't slow down Murrieta Valley in triumph over Citrus Hill

02/17/2013, 1:38am PST
By Landon Negri

Murrieta Valley rolls to a convincing win despite losing its hot hand to a minor injury.

Alex Morrison shoots a jumper during Murrieta Valley's 64-39 win over Citrus Hill Saturday in the opening round of the Division II-A playoffs.

— A 25-point victory in the first round of the playoffs should be nothing more than a bump in the road for a top-seeded team looking for bigger and better things.

There were, though, a few bumps in the road Saturday night as second-seeded Murrieta Valley dumped Citrus Hill, 64-39, for a Division II-A playoff victory.

The Nighthawks don’t plan on them being any more than than that — bumps.

Murrieta Valley raced to an easy victory, but it also lost senior guard Aliah Marshall to what was termed as a “slight hyperextension” of her left knee after a dominating, 16-point first half.

Murrieta Valley turned to its bench, and it performed well, with nine different players scoring.

“We didn’t have that much of a dropoff overall,” Nighthawks coach Scott Richards said. “We still won by quite a bit, and we scored in the 60s. We got a lot of assists — it was good. It was a team win, which is what we really needed tonight.”

But don’t get him wrong — a healthy Marshall would be a benefit as Murrieta Valley must travel all the way to Saugus for its second-round game Wednesday.

Marshall shot 7-of-13 from the field and had racked up five steals in the first half before going down with 5:44 left to go in the third quarter.

Marshall was limping heavily afterward, but she’ll also have four days to rest.

If she can’t go Wednesday, the Nighthawks believe they’ll be OK. They showed why after she exited.

Senior Karen Wolf, who had been quiet to that point, scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half and had 10 rebounds overall. Sophomores Julia Cardenas, Alex Morrison and Simone Jefferson, as well as senior Isabel Munoz, all got on the scoreboard and played key minutes down the stretch.

“We were able to hold on and get a lot of girls into the game,” said Wolf, who also converted 10 of 15 free-throw attempts. “And we were able to keep things going.”

Senior Deshea Wilkes showed her versatility with four points, four steals and seven assists.

Richards said afterward he actually considered playing her at the point after Marshall left the game.

“She is a smart player,” he said of Wilkes. “She is really athletic, and she really anticipated well tonight. She got a lot of steals and a lot of fastbreaks in a row, and that’s playing as a 3-guard.”

Murrieta Valley (22-5) led 35-17 at the half and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Citrus Hill (11-14), the No. 2 team from the Mountain Pass League. turned the ball over 22 times in the first half. Senior guard Celeste Taylor led the Hawks with nine points, eight rebounds, and five steals.

Still, the Nighthawks avoided a first-round let down and are two rounds away from equaling their semifinals showing of a year ago.

“The big thing is to establish it in practice,” Wolf said. “We practice hard and keep the intensity up so that when we come here, we can show that we’re ranked 2 for a reason.”

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