Toad netters make history
By Jesse Phelps
A long season and a long drive to Long
Beach proved worth it for the Thacher girls' varsity basketball
squad Friday as it defeated La Sierra Academy of Riverside, 54-50,
in a nail-biter.
Sophomore point guard Becky Horton hit the crucial dagger, a
three-pointer with 31 seconds to play, to open up a seven point
lead in what was a back-and-forth struggle the entire night.
Horton shot her three, only her fifth make from that range on
the season, with over 15 seconds on the shot clock.
"I was saying, kill the clock, kill the clock," said
Thacher head coach Meilssa Johnson. "I was going, "No,
no, no!" And then it goes in and I'm like, 'Oh, God, yes!"
Thacher took a 27-24 lead into halftime behind the inspired play
of senior co-captain Annie Wheatley and the continued hot shooting
of junior power forward Steffi Rauner. The two combined for 37
of Thacher's 54 points and Wheatley was a force underneath, grabbing
12 rebounds on the night.
La Sierra opened the second half on a 9-2 run but Thacher quickly
Wheatley and Rauner scored four points
each in an 8-0 Thacher run to put the Toads up four. The two
scored back to back hoops to forge a tie, then junior center
Whitney Livermore, who had 11 points, blocked her second shot
of the period. Again, Wheatley and Rauner scored in succession.
After a La Sierra hoop and a Thacher turnover, Rauner blocked
a shot to preserve a 40-38 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Joial Griffith, who led all scorers with 25 points, tied the
game up for La Sierra to begin the final stanza. Thacher then
got a free throw from Wheatley and an offensive rebound and putback
from Livermore for a three-point cushion.
After a bucket by Griffith, Wheatley hit a long two. She was
answered once again by Griffith, who stole the ball out front
and hit a driving layup to make it a one-point game. With two
minutes to play, a nice assist from Rauner gave Livermore an
easy chance inside and Thacher's lead was four.
Griffith, now single-handedly keeping the Lady Knights in the
game, hit a tough floater in the lane after a stutter move to
cut the lead to two. Then Wheatley had a chance to prove her
senior leadership. Having earned two free throws on a breakaway,
she had already stepped up to the line when the scoreboard froze.
Despite the extra time to think, she calmly nailed both after
a short delay.
"The game of her life," said Johnson. "Talk about
your senior co-captain leadership. She, I really feel, was the
difference out there. Free throws have been the theme of the
Then it was time for Horton's heroics. As she's done time and
again all season long, the scrappy point guard stole the ball
at a crucial juncture to set up her big three. From there, it
was all academic.
"Words cannot describe how great this feels," said
Johnson, who was awarded CIF Southern Section Division VAA Coach
of the Year honors after the game. "The girls just have
worked so hard every day and maintained the intensity over an
incredibly long season."
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