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KNIGHTS EARN FINALS BERTH

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By Rob Leon Guerrero

Knights’ Destiny Castro makes the power layup off the fast break. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

The St. John’s Knights clinched a spot in this year’s high school championship on Tuesday night after defeating the Southern High Dolphins in thrilling fashion, 61-57. Led by the ever dynamic duo of Kali Benavente and Destiny Castro the Knights dominated in the third quarter, eventually pulling away and sealing the victory over the Dolphins. Unable to contain the pair, the Dolphins were resigned to watching as the St. John’s freshmen dominated on both ends of the court.

The game got off to a quick start as both teams looked to run up and down the court. April Talledo scored the first basket of the game, driving hard to the basket for the layup. The Knights quickly responded as Castro found an open Benavente in the corner for the three-pointer. From the start, the freshmen duo worked to dismantle the Dolphins defense, connecting on plays throughout the game to lead the Knights. Although the Dolphins were unable to hit from three-point range, they closed out the first quarter on a high note as Paige Surber received an outlet pass and quickly passed down court to Talledo for the layup.

Down 13-11 going into the second quarter, the Dolphins engineered an 8-0 run, led by Surber, who constantly attacked the Knights defense and getting to the free throw line. However, the Dolphins would struggle from the charity stripe. Back to back baskets from Tanya Flores helped give the Dolphins the lead, but the Knights quickly recaptured the lead and the momentum as Castro proved menacing on defense, stealing the inbounds pass for the easy layup on several occasions. A beautiful drive-and-dish from Castro to Benavente for the three-pointer ensured the lead for the Knights at the half, 29-28.

McDonald’s player of the game: Knights’ Destiny Castro. 31 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals.

With the game so close, the Knights started out the second half on a flat note. They turned the ball over on consecutive possessions, which the Dolphins capitalized on when Talledo converted the basket off a steal from Castro. Coming out from the timeout, the Knights began to exploit the Dolphins transition defense when, on several possessions, Benavente secured the rebound and threw the ball ahead to Castro who easily finished. Talledo responded for the Dolphins, recovering a loose ball in traffic and making an amazing scoop shot that kept the Dolphins crowd in an uproar. However, Castro continued to conduct a scoring clinic, driving hard to the basket on one occasion, where she bowled over Surber for the basket and the foul. The Knights, up 45-36 going into the final period, got a strong performance out of Allyson Chiu, who scored seven points, and the Knights’ supporting cast continued to maintain the lead. With St. John’s looking to run the game clock out, Talledo and Surber staged one last rally, scoring the final seven points for their team. All would be for naught, as the clock expired with the Dolphins unable to complete the comeback.

Knights’ Allyson Chiu tries to steal a rebound over the back of Dolphins’ Brielle Meno. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

After the game Castro spoke about her team’s performance throughout the season, noting the positive energy throughout the squad. “This was our first year playing together,” she said, “and it feels really good.” On her concerted attack with Benavente, she responded, “we’ve been playing together for years, and we work well together.” She would go on to say, “We just tried to keep each other up, and always encouraged each other to play hard.”

Coach Peters shared Castro’s sentiment regarding his team’s progression. “Kali and Destiny are very talented, nevermind that their freshmen, they’re some of the best talent in the league,” he said, “but we’ve seen the team playing better together throughout the season. Tonight we got some really good contribution from Allyson, as well as Rayanna Piana securing rebounds for us.”

Castro finished the game with 31 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and four steals, while Benavente tallied 15 points, five rebounds, 10 assists and three steals. Talledo finished with 20 points for the Dolphins, along with seven steals and three rebounds. Surber chipped in with nine points, nine rebounds and four assists.

The first time for the school to compete for a girls basketball title, the Knights will look to have their hands full as they will face the defending champion Academy Cougars later this week. Peters commented on the finals match-up explaining, “I’m really impressed with Academy. We’ve improved throughout the season, and I believe they have too.” Peters also went on to address the challenges facing his team. “We obviously have two players that score majority of our points,” he said, “they’ve got a great team. Kara’s the MVP and their leader, but they get production from Bonto, Rupley & Ilao.”

 

PHOTO GALLERY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

http://www.akguam.com/ou/tamuning-scion/

Dolphins’ April Talledo was able to score this hard-fought jump shot despite the close defense of Knights’ Adriana Chang. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Dolphins’ Tanya Flores scores the long two-pointer over the defense of Knights’ Rayanna Piana. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Knights’ Destiny Castro drives the ball to the basket through the defense of Dolphins’ Tanya Flores. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Dolphins’ Brielle Meno attempts the jumper over three Knights defenders. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Knights’ Destiny Castro contests the shot of Dolphins’ Paige Surber. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Knights’ Destiny Castro secures the ball on her way to the layup with Brielle Meno of the Dolphins looking to defend. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

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