Princess Cassell sparks Orange Lutheran girls basketball to win in first round of playoffs

ORANGE — The Orange Lutheran girls basketball team passed the first test of the CIF Southern Section playoffs Thursday with a 77-66 victory over Canyon of Canyon Country on Thursday night at Orange Lutheran High.

The Lancers (19-7) are trying to win their third consecutive CIF-SS title, having won Division 1 last year and Division 2AA in 2022. This year they are trying to repeat in Division 1.

Orange Lutheran was led Thursday by Princess Cassell, who scored 23 points, and Shea Joko, who added 17 points.

Cassell also reached a notable milestone — 1,000 career points — when she made a 3-point shot at the end of the first quarter.

Orange Lutheran will host Long Beach Poly on Saturday in the second round.

Cassell got off to a scorching start, scoring 13 points in the opening quarter, including three 3-pointers, as the Lancers built a 29-9 lead.

“She’s a scorer and I think her getting her 1,000th point tonight fired up our bench, fired up our girls and gave us ammunition,” Orange Lutheran coach Lindsay Charity said. “That girl can go ball, we rely on her a lot.”

The Cowboys (14-14) found themselves trailing by 21 points early in the second quarter but went on a 8-0 run to end the first half to close the gap.

“You can lose it real quick,” Charity said, “you gotta keep your foot on the gas. Teams in Division 1, if you give them an ounce, they’re gonna take it. You gotta stay on top of your game and not take your foot off the gas.”

Josie Regez led the Cowboys with a game-high 24 points. Taylor Ford added 18 points and Isabella Escribano had 17 points.

Ford and Escribano each had three 3-pointers,

The Lancers saw their lead dwindle to four points early in the fourth, but senior center Sheridan Kennedy stepped up with some great work on the offensive glass and in the low post to secure the win.

Kennedy finished with 11 points, Kelly Garrity added 11 and Emalynn Vong chipped in 10 points.

Cassell fouled out with 5:19 left in the game, but Joko, Garrity and Kennedy all stepped up in their teammates’ absence.

Charity praised Joko for her contributions, especially after Cassell fouled out.

Joko made six free throws down the stretch to help keep Canyon at bay.

“Shea’s leadership on the floor, I think she was super clutch with her free throws at the end of the game,” Charity said, “and just her poise is really what keeps us together, she’s our rock.”

Charity expects another difficult challenge Saturday.

“We faced Long Beach Poly in early December and we won by 10,” she said, “but I know they’re a totally different team now and they’re playing really well so that will be a tough one.”

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