Westminster teammates Myron Aiava, left, and Paul Pena get tangled wrestling for the rebound while playing Loara Wednesday.

Loara sets up showdown for Golden West title


ANAHEIM – With 3:24 left in the opening quarter, Westminster had broken the double-digit plateau.  One thing the Lions didn’t count on was that it would score its 10th point in the opening quarter of the second half.

Loara clamped down on Westminster and claimed a 36-29 victory in a defensive tug-of-war on Wednesday night at Loara.

The win clinches, at the very least, a second-place finish in the Golden West League for the Saxons. It also sets up a huge tilt between Loara (20-6, 8-1) and Ocean View on Friday, with a share of the league title on the line for the Saxons.

Loara didn’t do anything particularly pretty offensively against Westminster (11-13, 5-4), but it came up with enough to win, thanks in large part to a dominant defense.

“The pace of the game was very slow. Both teams were patient offensively,” Saxons  coach Ed Prange said. “It was a great defensive battle between both teams.”

Isaiah Merrill carried the scoring burden for Loara. Merrill scored 12 points, 10 coming in the second half, and pulled down four rebounds.

The Saxon defense, which held the Lions to its season-low for points, was led by Joe Stiratt and Parth Patel, who forced Westminster into many shot-clock violations and turnovers throughout the night.

Loara’s defense was so good that the Lions didn’t score a single point in the second quarter. After the game, Prange said he’s never seen anything like what his team did in the second.

Paul Pena, who scored 10 points, along with Daniel Thomsen rallied Westminster to get within a basket of the Saxons, but didn’t get any closer after Merrill asserted himself.

Prange seemed satisfied after his team’s 20th victory.

“It’s been a great season. Anything we get from now on is gravy,” he said.

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