May 22, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Top-seeded Orange Lutheran races past Crean Lutheran to reach CIF finals

Crean Lutheran’s Taylor Feldman is defended by Orange Lutheran’s Princess Cassell Wednesday night. (Photos courtesy Crean Lutheran Shutterbugs, Ted Rigoni and John Luciano).

Top-seeded Orange Lutheran continued to roll past its playoff opponents, defeating No. 4 seeded Crean Lutheran 72-52 in a CIF Division 2AA girls basketball semifinal game Wednesday night before a capacity crowd at Crean Lutheran High. 

Orange Lutheran advances to the championship game on Saturday night to host Sage Hill, which defeated Santa Monica 58-41 on Wednesday.

OLu has beaten its four playoff opponents by an average of 30 points per game.

Crean Lutheran senior guard Taylor Feldman led all scorers with 32 points, but the Saints’ 16-game winning streak was snapped. Both the Saints (22-4) and the Lancers qualified for the state tournament that begins next week.   

Shea Joko drilled five 3-pointers and Sheridan Kennedy scored 16 points and hauled down 14 rebounds to lead OLU, which won its fifth consecutive game. The Lancers (23-8) are returning to the finals for the first time since 2019 when they captured the title. 

“Crean Lutheran is a great team and we’ve been fortunate to play a lot of great teams this season and that has made us battle-tested,” said Lancers Coach Lindsay Charity. “The Trinity League really gets you ready for playoff basketball. We knew Taylor (Feldman) was going to her’s, but we focused on stopping everybody else.”

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

Kennedy was a force at both ends of the floor and Crean Lutheran struggled to contain her.

“We played hard, shot well, executed and tried to disrupt their play,” Kennedy said.

OLu challenged every Saints shot and limited Crean Lutheran to one attempt on the offensive end and never let the Saints get into a smooth offensive flow. Crean Lutheran made only two baskets (and 17 free throws) in the opening half and trailed 18-6 after the first quarter and 34-21 at intermission.

Kennedy’s basket at the 4:50 mark of the third quarter gave the Lancers a 46-27 lead and the Saints were not able to make a run afterwards.

“I was hoping we could have made a serious run in the second-half but they couldn’t miss,” said Saints co-head coach Bianca Ziemann. “They hit from inside and outside and they executed really well. They’re well coached and I respect their program.”

Feldman added:

“They’re a great team. They outrebounded us down low and they did what we thought they were going to do. I’m proud of my teammates. We never gave up, whether we were up by 20 or down by 20.”

Orange Lutheran was relentless throughout the game. Princess Cassell, Taliyah McFerson, Kelly Garrity, Ashari Cassell and Heaven Johnson, along with Kennedy were extremely aggressive defensively and kept the pressure on the Saints.

“Team work and communication was our game plan and we executed it,” said Princess Cassell, who scored eight points. “It’s amazing we’re going to the finals.”

Garrity scored 10 points for OLu and Johnson added eight points. Ashley Heyer and Jane Hewitt each scored six points apiece for Crean Lutheran.    

“This game doesn’t define our season,” said Ziemann. “We’ve accomplished so much this year. We won our first Empire League with a perfect 10-0 record and we won a tournament in San Diego and we made it to the semifinals. I’m m so proud of these girls. They never quit.”  

Emily Reed said it’s been a great season for the Saints.

“We’ve had each other’s backs and we’re sisters, we win together and we lose together, but we never give up,” said Reed.

–Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone