May 29, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Garden Grove secures first trip to CIF finals with comeback win over Sunny Hills

Garden Grove players celebrate and Sunny Hills players walk off the court following Tuesday’s semifinal. (Photos courtesy Mark Bausman, For OC Sports Zone).

Garden Grove High School’s boys basketball team continued its late season surge Tuesday night at Sunny Hills defeating the Lancers 45-39 in a CIF Division 4AA semifinal game before a capacity crowd.    

Miguel Ortega scored 19 points, including nine free throws in the fourth quarter, to lead Garden Grove and propel the Argonauts to their first CIF boys basketball championship appearance in the school’s 101 year existence. Garden Grove will host Fullerton on Friday night for the championship. The Indians defeated Artesia 58-56 on Tuesday.  

“I wasn’t nervous,” said Ortega, who converted six free throws in the final minute of play. “We’ve been in close games this season, so we are used to the pressure. We continued to play hard as a team. The feeling of going to the finals hasn’t hit me yet, but it’s exciting.”

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Garden Grove has won 14 of its last 15 games and Argonauts coach Brian Girard was thrilled with the Tuesday’s results.

“The difference was our lock down defense in the third quarter when we held them to two points,” said Girard. “Guys like Landon Mendoza, Jeremiah Scott and Allen Abarca really stepped up after Miguel (Ortega) went out of the game with his second foul in the first quarter. They all played to their potential.”

Chad Nguyen’s bucket with 1:19 to play gave Sunny Hills a 39-38 lead. Ortega was fouled by the Lancers big man Dylan Lawson as he drove the lane with one minute remaining.

It was Lawson’s fifth foul and he left the game. Ortega made both free throws and the Argonauts led 40-39. With 33 seconds remaining, Ortega made two more free throws and upped Garden Grove’s lead to 42-39.

Following a Sunny Hills miss, Abarca was fouled  and made his first free throw but missed his second attempt. Ortega pulled down the rebound and was fouled and made both free throws with 19 seconds left, increasing the lead to 45-39. The Lancers missed a 3-point attempt and a free throw down the stretch and Garden Grove held on to earn its first trip to the finals.

“This was a revenge game for us because they beat us by 20 points last time,” said Ivan Ortega, who scored eight points. “Nobody gave us a chance to be here; we’ve been underdogs all season, but we wanted it more. Our job was to get to the finals.”

Both teams played aggressive defense and forced each other to miss shots from inside the paint. Neither team shot very well and combined to commit 22 turnovers. The Lancers did not score in the third quarter until Lawson sunk a layup with 11 seconds remaining in the quarter.

Despite its lack of offensive production in the quarter, the Lancers only trailed 31-28 after three quarters. The Argonauts outscored Sunny Hills 10-2 in the quarter but failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities.     

“I give Garden Grove a lot of credit,” said Lancers Coach Joe Ok. “They played really good defense and made adjustments from the first time we played them. We had scoring opportunities, but we missed shots and free throws late in the game. One play here or there could have made all of the difference, but we didn’t make those pays.”

Garden Grove avenged an earlier season double digit loss to the Lancers and when Ortega committed his second foul and went to the bench with 5:26 left in the first quarter, the outlook for the Argonauts looked dim.  However, Ivan Ortega and Scott helped keep Garden Grove close.

Lawson and Justin Shim added baskets in the final 30 seconds of the first half as the Lancers (24-8) took a 26-21 lead at intermission. Lawson led the Lancers with 14 points. Shim scored 11 points and Johann Kwon added 10 points for Sunny Hills, who was attempting to reach the finals for the first time since 2004.

“We hustled, rebounded and played great defense and we never lost our composure,” said Mendoza. “We’re making history and we want to put a banner up in the gym.”

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone