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Motivated Troy advances to final
SANTA ANA – There was no shortage of motivation pulsing through Troy’s girls basketball team Wednesday night.
The Warriors dedicated the season to their late assistant coach and head junior varsity coach Steve Yano.
They celebrated Coach Roger Anderson’s 25th wedding anniversary to his wife, Trudy, earlier in the day.
And there was the business of winning on the road to reach the CIF-SS Division 1A final.
The second-seeded Warriors grabbed each strand of energy and rode their defense and 20 points from guard Barbara Sitanggan to defeat No. 3 Foothill, 44-38, in the semifinals.
The Warriors (23-8) posed in front of a banner for Yano afterward and pointed to the heavens. The inscription included “best seat in the house” and had Yano’s trademark words, “Let it fly.”
“We play the season for him,” said Sitanggan, a hard-driving junior who added seven rebounds. “It was a terrible first month. In the beginning, we weren’t playing our game. It just wasn’t us.”
But Troy regrouped and checked off major season goals such as extending its Freeway League winning streak to 190 games and reaching its first final since 2011.
On Saturday, the Warriors will take on fourth-seeded West Torrance at Azusa Pacific at 3:30 p.m.
Troy led, 24-21, at halftime but used a 13-3 run to open the third to seize control. A pressing defense held Foothill (24-6) without a field goal until Blaysen Varnadoe sank one with 1:16 left in the frame. Sitanggan and fellow ballhandler Cori Okada also didn’t commit a turnover in the third.
In the fourth, Sitanggan turned her steal into a layup and Okada added a 3-poimter off another steal for a 42-27 lead with 5:20 left.
Troy called timeout but Foothill responded with an 8-0 run that lasted almost five minutes until Sitanggan followed her miss for a layup and a 44-35 lead with 58 seconds left.
“We knew it was going to be a slugfest,” Anderson said. “They're a really good team. We limited our turnovers and hit some really key threes and got the momentum going our way.”
Naomi Hunt (eight points, 10 rebounds) and reserves Brooke Sinek and Danielle Aiu sank one 3-pointer apiece. Kaylani Maiava led Foothill with 15 points and 11 rebounds while Varnadoe (11 rebounds) and Sydney Sharp (13 rebounds) each had eight points.
Troy's motivation for the finals also appears to be running high. In 2011, the Warriors lost to Edison, 45-44, in a controversial Division 1A final. Anderson said a scorekeeper awarded Edison a free throw in the first quarter that the Chargers didn't make.
"The last time we were there (in the finals), it was taken from us," he said.
Sitanggan and her teammates weren't around in 2011 but she knows West Torrance.
"I know all the girls. I played club with them," she said. "They're all my friends, so this is going to be interesting."
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