High School Sports

Prep Girls Basketball: Little-known Eagles show up big

Arroyo Grande High’s Emma Weinrich (14) scores against Northwood’s Nicole Ishihara during Thursday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3A playoff game at Arroyo Grande.
Arroyo Grande High’s Emma Weinrich (14) scores against Northwood’s Nicole Ishihara during Thursday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3A playoff game at Arroyo Grande. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

One-by-one, prominent Arroyo Grande High girls basketball players hobbled across the James Gym court on Thursday night during team-wide player introductions.

First, there was starting shooting guard Haley MacDonald, one of the area’s best perimeter threats, out with a turf-toe injury.

Next, 6-foot center Rachel Ventura, the Eagles’ leading scorer and rebounder, out with an ACL tear, limped over to shake the hand of Northwood of Irvine coach J.C. Clarke.

Then, power forward Lindsey Wolf, missing in action due to appendicitis suffered late Wednesday night, did the same.

But if there were any PAC 7 team equipped with enough depth to pull through such a rash of injuries, it would be the Eagles, who are coming off their second straight league championship that has seen the entire team average fewer than 10 points per game individually.

A handful of previously seldom-used contributors made their presences known, eliminating Northwood, 56-42, in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs.

“Our focus right now was, it’s got to be nine (players) or none,” Arroyo Grande coach Dwight MacDonald said of the depleted roster. “All of them have to be ready.

“They all know they can contribute. We don’t focus on anybody to score 20 points a game,” MacDonald said of the team’s balance. “The girls are very unselfish.”

Arroyo Grande (20-6), the division’s seventh seed, moved on to face the winner of the matchup between 10th-seeded Jurupa Valley and Pasadena.

One of the key fresh faces for Arroyo Grande was 5-foot-10 sophomore post Emma Weinreich, who tallied a team-high 14 points in just her third varsity appearance after being called up from the junior varsity level.

She had several pivotal baskets, including a turnaround jumper with just under five minutes remaining to put the Eagles up 48-35. She also scored down low with less than two-and-a-half minutes left to get the lead back to 13 at 54-41.

“We found what we thought was a mismatch, and we took advantage of it,” MacDonald said of Weinreich’s performance.

Weinreich is a twin sister of Garrett Weinreich, a 6-5 sophomore center for the Eagles boys. (Garrett, ironically, has also found himself successfully filling in for an injured starting senior, as the boys opened the year without Tanner Hinek, an all-league center who was lost to a football injury.)

To top matters off, MacDonald learned of Wolf’s appendicitis with a phone call early Thursday morning.

“It was unbelievable,” he said with regard to the mounting need for replacements. However, Haley MacDonald may return soon, he said, and Wolf could be back by next week.

Madi Ventura had 13 points from her point guard spot, while power forwards Jenna Sverchek and Maddie Carr added 12 and nine, respectively, in the win.

In the closing minutes, the Eagles also played varsity first-timers Kristen Beall and Brooke St. Denis. Beall has served as the team manager this year, doing everything from scrimmaging with the regulars in practice to helping in stat keeping.

“We just worked hard all week getting prepared for this,” Madi Ventura said.

“It was a little weird (playing without three usual starters), but we weren’t scared. We knew we were a good team.”

Melanie Kashanchi scored a game-high 18 points for the Timberwolves (13-14), an at-large bid from the Sea View League, but no other Northwood players scored in double figures.

The Eagles led 18-14 after the first quarter and 30-26 at halftime following back-to-back baskets by Weinreich before the break.

The lead was stretched to 41-31 at the end of the third quarter.