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Orangewood Academy takes another big step in regionals

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

GARDEN GROVE - Orangewood Academy, a school with roughly 100 students, continues to be one of the more inspiring stories in Orange County girls basketball.

The Spartans came back from an eight-point deficit to earn a 56-53 victory over Independence of Bakersfield in a CIF Southern California Regional Division II semifinal Tuesday at Orangewood Academy.

Orangewood (22-9), the No. 1 seed, will be the host school against No. 2 Mater Dei in the regional final, which will be played Friday afternoon or Saturday night, Spartans coach Leslie Aragon said.

The Falcons (30-4), who are the CIF Central Section champions, came into the contest on a 14-game winning streak.

Since losing in a consolation game in the Southern Section’s Open Division playoffs against Brea Olinda on Feb. 22, the Spartans have won three in a row.

The Falcons’ leading scorer, Kahlaijah Dean, scored 13 points in the first half, but she was held to just three in the second after the Spartans made some adjustments on defense.

“We went to a two-three half-court trap, and Dean just kept backing up,” Aragon said. “That zone helped us, and (the Falcons) stopped doing what they were doing.”

Orangewood’s Wendy Duran was fouled while making a running floater in the final seconds of the third quarter. She made the free throw, giving the Spartans the lead for good at 41-40.

Orangewood led, 54-50, with 14 seconds left in the game and was set to inbound the ball from their end of the court.

Carolina Montes took the inbound pass and dribbled towards the Falcons’ basket, running seven seconds off the clock before getting fouled.

Montes, who led all players with 16 points, made both free throws to put Orangewood ahead by six.

The Falcons’ Jasmine Dixon made a 3-pointer, just beating the buzzer, but it didn’t matter.

“We come here to play these kinds of games,” Montes said. “I’m just so proud of my team.”


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