JSerra girls basketball holds steady in victory at Pacifica Christian

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NEWPORT BEACH — JSerra’s girls basketball team showed that its young talent can play uptempo, shoot the 3-pointer and press for four quarters. The Lions showed one more thing on Wednesday night:

They don’t back down.

JSerra’s improved squad answered each run by host Pacifica Christian to collect a 65-58 victory in an intense clash of teams ranked in the Orange County Top 25.

Before a large group of family and friends, freshman point guard Rosie Santos supplied several of the responses for No. 13 JSerra (10-1) in the final 3 1/2 minutes.

She scored 10 of 19 points in the final 3:13 as the Lions pulled away after No. 22 Pacifica Christian (11-2) trimmed its deficit to 53-52 in the fourth quarter.

“We knew that we were going to have to step up and play,” Santos said. “We know how good we are and we know that we can play. As eighth graders and seventh graders, we played in high school divisions, which I think really helped us.”

Santos, one of four freshmen starters for JSerra, produced a sizzling finish. She sank a 3-pointer, drove to the basket for a 3-point play, assisted a basket by junior post Lindsay Tshibuyanga-Tambwe and hung in the air to complete another drive for a 63-58 lead with 30 seconds remaining.

Santos added two foul shots in the closing seconds and finished with seven assists, seven rebounds, four steals and one block.

“She’s a stud,” Pacifica Christian coach Pablo Martinez said of Santos.

Santos had plenty of help. Freshman Addie Nolan and Shae Talleur sank five and four 3-pointers en route to 21 and 18 points, respectively.

The Lions finished with 11 3-pointers as a team.

JSerra led by as many as 22 points in the first half.

The Lions made 7 of 18 shots from the floor, including four 3s, in the first quarter to open a 21-5 lead. They led 27-5 after a fallaway 3-pointer by Nolan early in the second quarter.

JSerra then answered multiple surges by Pacifica Christian. It was big progress from a program that didn’t win a game last season.

“They just play tenacious,” said JSerra coach Chyanne Butler, who picked up the win against the school she guided to a section title in 2021. “And (the freshmen) have grown over just the couple months that I’ve had them. Just seeing them play more confident.”

Junior Caylie Villagrana knocked down a pair of 3s in the second quarter to spark Pacifica Christian and finished with a game-high 26 points. Her sophomore sister Vivian came off the bench to score 17 of her 18 points in the second half.

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