Murrieta Valley girls basketball team beats Great Oak, forcing tie atop Southwestern League – Press Enterprise

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MURRIETA — After losing nine seniors from last year’s CIF Southern Section Division 3AA quarterfinal team, Murrieta Valley girls basketball coach Alison Rutledge had limited expectations starting the season.

But the young Nighthawks finished the first round of Southwestern League play with a 4-1 records. That lone blemish was a four-point overtime loss to Great Oak, which shared the league title last season. Friday night, Murrieta Valley avenged that loss with a 60-55 victory and pulled even with the Wolfpack in the standings.

Murrieta Valley (16-7, 5-1 in league) has a starting lineup that features a senior, a junior, a sophomore and two freshmen,

“We started the year talking about this season in terms of a rebuilding campaign, but about halfway through that first round of league our thinking began to change and now it’s ‘Why not us?,” Rutledge said.

“Different players have stepped up along the way which has been nice to see.”

Great Oak (13-7, 5-1) started the game on a 7-0 run before the Nighthawks rallied to take a 17-16 lead on a 3-pointer by Valerie Lauritzen with 1:22 left in the first quarter. However, the Wolfpack scored four points in less than 30 seconds, as Keira Stout and Kayla Martin each scored to help Great Oak escape with the lead.

A second 3-pointer by Taylor Fuson pushed Great Oak’s lead back to seven points before Murrieta Valley went on a 9-0 run to take a 26-23 lead. Lauritzen converted a three-point play in that stretch.

Cienna Pierce’s layup with 2:40 to half put Great Oak up 29-28, but a jumper by Alysia Maldonado-Murray gave Murrieta Valley a 30-29 lead that they would not relinquish at intermission.

“We came into this game knowing we were right there after such a close loss the first time,” Maldonado-Murray said. “A lot of folks thought of us as underdogs but we’re putting things together and feel like we can do big things going forward.”

An 8-2 run put Great Oak up 38-34 early in the third quarter. Jaiden Nieto and Martin each had buckets which tied the score, and Murrieta Valley led 46-42 after three quarters on a banked in jumper from Jamie Yabana at the buzzer.

Murrieta Valley led 50-48 with 2:48 left, but Lauritzen connected on a pair of key 3-pointers 45 seconds apart to put the Nighthawks up 56-50. She fouled out with just over a minute left and saw Yulissa Cusworth hit the jumper from the elbow that clinched the win.

“I just had to be positive for my team after fouling out,” Lauritzen said. “This was a team win and to see teammates step up in big spots was big. My shots weren’t falling early also so to see that pair go through late was a nice feeling.”

Maldonado-Murray finished with 19 points for Murrieta Valley, while Lauritzen and Yabana added 17 and 13 points, respectively for the Nighthawks. Pierce led Great Oak with 12 points, while Morgan Grayton added 10 more.

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