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Young starters aren't hampering Warriors' girls basketball team

This season's starting lineup for Fallbrook High School's girls basketball team consists of senior Claire Nordeen, junior Janice Garcia, and freshmen Grace Nordeen, Emery Pizzo, and Taylor Thomas.

"We're losing a key piece, but we have three really good pieces to build around for the next four years," said Fallbrook coach Trae Harrison.

The lack of previous high school varsity experience for three of the starters hasn't hindered Fallbrook's season record. A 66-23 home victory Jan. 17 against Valley Center improved Fallbrook's overall record to 14-7, and the win gave Fallbrook a 3-0 mark in Valley League competition.

"It's surprising. I expected us to see a slow start with these freshmen, but they're picking things up quickly and I'm excited to see how they finish," Harrison said. "We had a lot of opportunities that we dropped, but I'm happy with what we have."

This season's Fallbrook competition began Nov. 18 at Crawford. The Warriors leveraged a 20-9 halftime lead into a 44-19 triumph over the Colts. Grace Nordeen scored 15 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and obtained four steals. Claire Nordeen contributed 10 points, nine rebounds, and three assists.

The Warriors posted a 3-1 record in the Nov. 20-25 Regional Rumble tournament. Fallbrook's Nov. 20 game against San Marcos was played at Canyon Hills High School in San Diego. The 55-40 Fallbrook victory included leads of 16-3 after the first period and 27-10 at halftime.

Claire Nordeen had 30 points, 25 rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Grace Nordeen provided 10 points, 11 rebounds, and three steals. Pizzo scored eight points and took four rebounds off the boards. Garcia had seven points and 11 rebounds. Thomas had three rebounds and three steals.

Fallbrook's other three Regional Rumble games took place at Madison High School in San Diego. The 82-43 win Nov. 22 against Hoover included leads of 25-4 after one quarter, 39-15 at the half, and 64‑28 after three periods. Garcia led the team with 25 points and with two blocked shots and shared the team lead with 11 rebounds.

Claire Nordeen's performance included 19 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Grace Nordeen had 14 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a blocked shot. Pizzo had nine points, three rebounds, four assists, and three steals. The Fallbrook varsity roster has 13 girls, and senior Lesly Bautista scored eight points while dishing out two assists. Thomas had three points, five rebounds, and four assists.

Montgomery was last year's CIF San Diego Section Division III champion, and the Aztecs handed Fallbrook a 70-29 loss Nov. 24. The Warriors concluded Regional Rumble play Nov. 25 with a 42-41 victory over Mission Bay. Fallbrook held a 21-16 halftime lead.

A 17-7 Buccaneers scoring advantage in the third quarter gave Mission Bay a 33-28 lead entering the final period. Fallbrook outscored the Buccaneers by a 14-8 margin in the fourth quarter. Pizzo scored 15 points, Garcia added 11 points, and junior Emma Donaldson had eight points.

Fallbrook hosted Santa Fe Christian on Nov. 29. The Eagles had an 11-10 lead after one period, but Fallbrook scoring advantages of 14-9 in the second quarter, 31-7 in the third period, and 19-9 in the fourth quarter gave the Warriors a 74-36 win.

Grace Nordeen had 21 points, eight rebounds, and three steals. Garcia provided 16 points, nine rebounds, and three steals. Claire Nordeen added 14 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Thomas had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists.

Oceanside traveled to Fallbrook for a Dec. 5 game. The Pirates held an 11-9 lead after one quarter. The score was 21-21 at halftime. Fallbrook scored 19 points in each of the final two periods for a 59-44 triumph. Grace Nordeen contributed 24 points, 11 rebounds, five steals, four assists, and a blocked shot.

Claire Nordeen accounted for 19 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, and a steal. Garcia provided eight points, five rebounds, three steals, and two assists. Pizzo had six rebounds and three assists. Thomas gave the Warriors four points, four rebounds, and a steal.

A Dec. 6 trip to Lincoln High School gave Fallbrook a 52-34 victory. The Warriors had leads of 13-6 after one quarter, 29-15 at the half, and 45-21 after three periods. Claire Nordeen had 26 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Grace Nordeen had 12 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Garcia had four points, five rebounds, four steals, and a blocked shot.

Fallbrook won a Dec. 8 game at Mission Vista by a 50-19 margin. The Warriors outscored the Timberwolves by an 18-2 margin in the first quarter and by a 13-3 margin in the second period. Grace Nordeen scored 23 points and added 15 rebounds and five steals.

Pizzo provided nine points with four rebounds and three steals. Claire Nordeen had seven points, 15 rebounds, four assists, four steals, and a blocked shot. Bautista scored six points, pulled down two rebounds, stole a ball, and blocked four shots. Thomas had two rebounds, five assists, and a blocked shot.

The five-game winning streak ended Dec. 13 with a 65-60 loss at Morse. The Warriors had a 27-15 lead after the first quarter, but the Tigers narrowed the halftime deficit to 31-30 and outscored Fallbrook by a 24-17 margin in the third quarter.

A 60-54 triumph Dec. 15 at Rancho Buena Vista returned the Warriors to winning. The Longhorns had leads of 33-29 at halftime and 47-41 after the third quarter before the Warriors outscored RBV by a 19-7 margin in the final period.

Grace Nordeen provided 21 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, and an assist. Claire Nordeen contributed 17 points, nine rebounds, three steals, and three assists. Garcia had 13 points, five rebounds, and a blocked shot. Pizzo scored five points, pulled down two rebounds, and dished out an assist. Thomas accounted for four points, four assists, three rebounds, and three steals.

Torrey Pines won last year's CIF Division II championship, and the Falcons handed Fallbrook two consecutive losses. The score of the Dec. 18 game was 67-58. The SoCal Holiday Prep Classic tournament game Dec. 27 had a 46-37 score in the Falcons' favor.

Fallbrook was 2-2 in that tournament. The Dec. 28 win over Cerritos had a 55-29 score. The Warriors had leads of 17-5 after the first quarter, 29-18 during halftime, and 45-23 at the end of the third period. The Warriors had a total of 62 rebounds including 29 from Claire Nordeen, 19 by Grace Nordeen, and eight taken by Garcia.

Claire Nordeen scored 24 points, Grace Nordeen provided 19 points, and Garcia sank eight points worth of baskets. Claire Nordeen led the team with four assists while Grace Nordeen had three blocked shots.

Gig Harbor High School is in the state of Washington. The Tides took a 6-3 record into their Dec. 29 contest against Fallbrook and led the Warriors by a 16-14 margin after the first quarter and by a 34-29 margin at halftime.

Fallbrook had a 24-11 scoring advantage in the third quarter, and a 16-11 advantage in the final period gave the Warriors a 69-56 victory. Claire Nordeen had 33 points, 13 rebounds, four steals, and two assists. Grace Nordeen accounted for 16 points, 17 rebounds, and four assists. Pizzo had nine points, two steals, two assists, and a rebound. Garcia scored seven points and pulled down nine rebounds.

SoCal Holiday Prep Classic play for Fallbrook concluded Dec. 30 with a 72-52 loss to Diamond Bar. The Warriors hosted Pacific Christian Orange County (Newport Beach) Jan. 4, and the Tritons won that 62-55 game.

Valley League play began Jan. 10. The Warriors were at San Pasqual and defeated the Golden Eagles by a 77-22 score. Fallbrook scored 23 points in each of the first three periods. San Pasqual had 10 points in each of the first two quarters but was held scoreless in the third period.

Grace Nordeen contributed 31 points, 19 rebounds, six steals, three assists, and a blocked shot. Claire Nordeen gave the Warriors 24 points, 14 rebounds, eight steals, five assists, and a blocked shot. Garcia had 17 points, six rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a blocked shot.

Fallbrook's first league home game of the season Jan. 12 was a 68‑15 win over Ramona. Fallbrook had leads of 22-3 after one quarter, 43-7 at the half, and 66-10 entering the final period. A lead of at least 40 points in the fourth quarter triggers a running clock.

Grace Nordeen did not play against the Bulldogs. In her 22 minutes of playing time Jan. 12, Claire Nordeen had 21 points, 22 rebounds, nine assists, and seven steals. Garcia played 16 minutes against the Bulldogs and provided 19 points, five rebounds, and three steals. In her 15 minutes on the court, sophomore Olivia Castillo scored 15 points. Thomas scored three points with seven steals, three rebounds, and a blocked shot. Pizzo had seven points, four rebounds, three steals, and two assists.

The CIF prohibits games or practices on Sundays but not on legal holidays, and basketball teams often take advantage of Martin Luther King Day to play on a day when school does not occur. Fallbrook had a neutral site game Jan. 15 against Olympian, who won that 61-50 contest.

Four seconds into the Jan. 17 game, Claire Nordeen scored a basket. The Jaguars tied the game 15 seconds later, but Grace Nordeen scored 18 seconds after that and the Warriors led for the rest of the game. Valley Center narrowed the deficit to 6-4 and then 8-6 before the Warriors scored the final nine points of the first quarter.

"We didn't rebound very well at all," Harrison said of the first period.

That would be an issue throughout the game. "We expected them to allow us to grab the rebounds, and they made us work for it," Harrison said.

During the evening Fallbrook pulled down 17 offensive and 21 defensive rebounds for a total of 38. Grace Nordeen grabbed 12 of those; Claire Nordeen took 10 balls off the glass; Garcia had nine rebounds, and Pizzo obtained four loose balls after shots.

Fallbrook's scoring streak reached 11 points as the Warriors scored the first basket of the second period. A Valley Center three-point shot was followed by a Fallbrook streak of 12 points. The Warriors held a 40-16 halftime lead and then had a 22-2 scoring advantage in the third period.

"The third quarter is very critical," Harrison said of outscoring the opponent in that period. "We don't have a good history of doing it, but that's one of the things we've been focusing on this year."

The Jaguars did not make two consecutive baskets at any point during the evening. "We try to focus everything we do on defense," Harrison said. "The goal is to keep everybody stagnant so they don't get into a rhythm. We try to disrupt everything."

The Nordeen sisters scored 18 points apiece against the Jaguars, and they also each had six steals Jan. 17. Garcia added 13 points and Thomas scored 11 points. Claire Nordeen had six assists and Grace Nordeen provided four assists. Garcia obtained three steals and blocked two Valley Center shots.

"It was a great team win," Harrison said.

"I'm excited about the win. I'm happy that we're progressing the way we are, but we still have work to do," Harrison said. "We want to win league. We want to have a solid playoff run."

The 2023-24 Valley League also includes Escondido and Mount Carmel. "We want competitive games that prepare us for the playoffs," Harrison said. "League is how we learn to evaluate what we need to do for the playoffs."

Based on Fallbrook's first three games, Harrison sees the need to improve the team's execution. "On a scale of 10 we're executing on a four," he said. "If we get better, I think we can be a really scary team."

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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