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Complete CHS sports round-up from CIF play

It’s not over until it’s over—unfortunately, now it’s over. The Claremont girls basketball team’s unlikely and unprecedented run through the CIF Division 3 Southern Section Championship tournament ended Wednesday night with a disappointing 57-35 loss to Saugus at home.

But what a run it was, and in the process the Wolfpack left two highly-ranked teams wondering what happened.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is the same team that before this season had not won a league game in four years.

In the first round Claremont scored a stunning 46-43 upset of number-three seed St. Mary’s Academy last Thursday in Inglewood.

The Belles were undefeated in the Camino Real League and had a 20-7 record overall, but Claremont brought St. Mary’s season to a screeching halt. The Belles had a comfortable 22-15 lead at halftime, but Claremont stomped them in the third quarter, tacking on 16 points to St. Mary’s seven. In the final quarter, the Belles finally woke up, but it was too late and they could not close the gap.

Senior Camille Troncone scored a game high 15 points, followed by sophomore Jessica Andrada with 12, and senior Lauren Steffen with eight. Troncone also had seven rebounds and five assists.

Coach Mike James remarked earlier this month, “I don’t want to be the one who has to play us in the first round [of CIF],” and boy did that come true.

“We knew what they would do, it was just a matter of how our kids would perform and we executed under pressure,” Coach James said. “They came in thinking they were going to roll over us.”

Claremont demonstrated that the St. Mary’s upset wasn’t a fluke by following up with a narrow 42-39 victory over the San Luis Obispo Tigers on Saturday in San Luis Obispo.

Claremont seemed to dominate with a six-point advantage at the half, which the girls extended to 10 points after three quarters. The Tigers made their move in the fourth quarter, and nearly pulled off the come from behind win, but the Pack held on.

This time it was senior Laurel Marchant who led the scoring with 16 points, followed by Troncone with 11, and Steffen with six. Marchant also had nine rebounds.

“We had a six hour bus ride [to San Luis Obispo] but luckily had some time to relax. We were under control most of the game and then in the last two minutes just tried to hold on. In the playoffs it’s just a matter of surviving,” Coach James said.

As Claremont entered the quarterfinal match they no longer had the element of surprise on their side and the Centurions clearly came out to play.

Both teams had some early game jitters with a fair amount of unforced turnovers, however Saugus built an early lead that they never lost.

Claremont had a hard time penetrating Saugus’ defense, forcing the Pack to attempt an unusually large number of three-point shots, most of which missed the mark. And that pretty much told the story. Claremont played a very good, aggressive game but a poor shooting percentage sunk them.

It was hard for the girls to hide their disappointment in front of the home crowd, but what an incredible redemption the season was particularly for the seniors.

“The end of a great ride,” Coach James said after the game clock ran out.

“We shot the ball poorly but a lot of it was them, too. They [Saugus] are a good team. They played well and hit the shots when they needed to,” he said.

“I am happy for the seniors because they get to go out winning some games. When we started, my goal was to finish in the top three and win a playoff game, but we got to the third round, and we were the team that no one expected to be here.”

Coach James said the first league victory against South Hills was a tuning point in the season and in the girls’ thinking, which propelled the team forward.

“It’s hard when you inherit a senior led team that’s not used to winning. [I told them] this is what we have to do and they bought in, and that is what it took for us to have the success that we had this year,” he said.

Marchant was upbeat in spite of the loss.

“It feels really great. I have been with these girls forever, all four years, and to know you are finally going forward, and you’re not stuck. Because it felt like we were stuck for three years. I think we were just done, particularly the seniors, just done with losing,” she said.

“Coming into the season we could only go up because we started without winning any games. We pushed through and got more wins than ever. We didn’t think we would ever get this far in CIF but we made history in Claremont.”

The Pack ends with a 16-14 record, 3-7 in league and a lot of motivation going into next season to show that the program is for real.

 

CIF loss ends excellent season for CHS girls soccer

The Claremont High School girls soccer season came to an end Tuesday with a disappointing 3-1 loss to visiting Redondo Union High School.

There was a fair amount of action in the opening few minutes. Claremont got on the board first with a goal from junior Sophie Jones, but it was the Sea Hawks’ game after that.

Redondo’s Carolyn Koutures evened the score just a few minutes later, when during a scramble in front of Claremont’s net, she snuck the ball past CHS defenders. Neither team could muster much of an offense during the rest of the first half and the girls went into the break tied.

The second half started with an invigorated Claremont team, but they were never able to get a shot to stick. Instead, the Sea Hawks capitalized on two nifty assists to seal their victory.

The go ahead goal came at 31:25 when Emma Stanfill centered the ball with two open players directly in front of the net, and Elle Marine easily beat Claremont goalkeeper Hollyn Carlton.

Sensing the danger, the Pack came alive, mustering numerous close calls including a three on one breakaway during which senior Savanna Beans shot was blocked. Jones also had a golden opportunity to tie but the shot went wide.

The Pack’s hopes to get back in the game were dashed when a throw in near Claremont’s net landed at the feet of Sophie Crouts, who tapped it over to Koutures who had an open net and got a fairly easy goal. With just 4:49 to go there was little chance that the Pack could prevail.

“I did not think we played to our level today. It wasn’t one of our best games for sure. I don’t know what the disconnect was, but it’s tough to have three shots against you and have them score three goals,” Coach Tim Tracey said.

The loss was a sharp contrast to Claremont’s 3-0 first-round victory last week over Yucaipa, which Coach Tracey described as a very well played match.

Beans, Elisabeth Chua and Janelle Gutierrez each scored, with assists from Kyra Tisopulos, Oksana Sosnovsky and Gutierrez.

Asked about the Yucaipa game, Coach Tracey was fairly blunt. “It was like night and day for sure. The momentum and the level of energy we had there did not match with what we brought today,” he said.

Still, it was a very good season and Claremont soccer remains one of the strongest programs on campus. The girls finish the season in second place in the Palomares league with a 6-3-1 record, 19-6-3 overall.

“It’s been a great year and one of the best senior classes I have ever had,” Coach Tracey said.

 

CHS ROUNDUP

Girls water polo

Claremont’s storybook season came to an end on Wednesday as the Woodrow Wilson Bruins outperformed the Pack, gaining a decisive 12-7 win in the semifinal match of the CIF Southern Section Championship tournament.

The Bruins never trailed during the match at the Woollett Aquatic Center in Irvine, building a commanding five-goal lead at halftime. While the Pack rallied in the second half, they were not able to catch up.

Still, it was an impressive run in the playoffs with wins last Thursday at home against Dana Hills, 13-7, and on Saturday with a 16-7 victory over Temple City in Downey.

Claremont was undefeated in league play and sailed to a Palomares League title just three years after finishing 4-4 and in third place.

Boys soccer

Claremont High School boys soccer just could not hold back California High School in the first round of CIF on Friday, losing to the Condors 2-0.

The teams were scoreless in the first half but California came out strong in the second, dominating on the offense and capitalizing on several opportunities.

The Condors’ first big chance actually came up empty. Early in the second half a loose ball landed in front of the Pack’s unprotected net, but Jose Luis Mariscal booted it hard directly at the goal post. A second attempt flew over the net.

A few minutes later they would get another chance as Claremont goalkeeper Rylan Optkiewicz blocked a shot, but Francisco Ruiz was there and got a clean shot into the right of the Pack’s net for the first goal of the game.

With just 8:40 left on the clock, California’s Enrique Casillas sealed Claremont’s fate with a nicely planted long shot for the Condors’ second goal.

Claremont ends the season with a 15-9-2 record, 6-3-1 in the Palomares League, which earned the Pack second place finish.

Wrestling

Boys wrestling competed in the CIF championships in Beaumont last weekend. Out of nine CHS wrestlers who qualified, two made it to the winners podium. Senior Victor Mora placed fifth and sophomore Brandon Fairman finished in seventh place. Mora will advance to the Masters Championship this coming weekend.

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com