Orangewood Academy girls basketball rallies past Fairmont Prep to clinch share of league title – Orange County Register

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ANAHEIM — Orangewood Academy girls basketball coach Leslie Aragon believed so strongly in his team’s rallying cry Thursday that he didn’t call a timeout even as the objective faced a major threat in the opening period at Fairmont Prep.

The Spartans aimed to stick together in the challenging road environment, so Aragon embraced the adversity of an early 12-point deficit.

“We talked about staying together in a hostile environment,” he said. “I (decided) to kind of (let us) settle in.”

Orangewood Academy responded with a united effort and made two key adjustments to post a statement-making 63-41 victory that clinched at least a share of the San Joaquin League title.

The Spartans (17-6, 5-0), ranked third in the Orange County Top 25, switched their defense to slow high-scoring Adyra Rajan and leaned on freshman Vivian Grenald off the bench as they made a case to be selected for the CIF Southern Section’s Open Division playoffs.

“That’s one of the goals that we have, just to make the Open,” said Orangewood Academy guard Maria Mejia, who tallied 15 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists. “This is a big win.”

Fairmont Prep (19-7, 3-2), ranked fifth in the county and fourth in Division 2 AA, closed the first period on a 12-0 run to lead 17-5.

Aragon didn’t call a timeout in the quarter but switched in the second to a diamond-and-one defense focused on slowing Rajan, who entered the game averaging 20 points. The sophomore finished with seven points.

Aragon also followed the advice of his assistant coaches and unleashed Grenald to attack the basket. The forward scored 10 of her game-high 16 points in the second period as the Spartans recovered.

Mejia took charge in the third quarter by scoring seven points and closed the frame by emphatically blocking a 3-point attempt. The play protected the Spartans’ 43-34 lead.

“She was ready,” Grenald said of Mejia’s block. “(Our) defense was good. We were communicating on the court.”

Orangewood Academy opted mostly to attack the basket with drives but sank its two 3-pointers in the fourth courtesy of Alissa Belen and Audrey Chow. Grenald finished with 11 rebounds while Vicky Om added six assists.

“Tonight we continued to show that we want to have a shot (at the Open),” said Aragon, whose team is on the Open Division watch list. “Now, the Brentwood game next week is massive.”

Guards Jazzy Mercado and Jailah Pineda paced Fairmont Prep with 13 points apiece. Mercado scored all 13 of her points off the bench.

“This game helped us take a step forward,” Fairmont Prep coach Josh Lozano said. “We got learn to play against a box-in-one. All these games are tools for to use against whatever teams we play in the playoffs. We’re going to see different stuff.”

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