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Warriors reach state girls basketball regional final

Fallbrook High School’s girls basketball team was invited to the state basketball playoffs, and the Warriors won three games in the state Division IV tournament before losing in the regional final.

The Warriors had state playoff wins over Kennedy High School of Granada Hills, El Camino Real High School of Woodland Hills, and Oceanside High School. Grossmont High School advanced to the state final with a 57-52 victory over the Warriors in the March 5 regional final.

“The state playoffs are hard because you don’t really know much about your opponent,” said Fallbrook coach Trae Harrison.

“My goal for us was to just compete,” Harrison said. “We had to compete to the best of our ability, and we did.”

Fallbrook reached the semifinals of the CIF San Diego Section Division I playoffs, where the Warriors lost to top-seeded Cathedral Catholic. Cathedral subsequently defeated Grossmont in the CIF section championship game, and the Dons received the 16th seed among Southern California teams in the state Division III playoffs but defeated top-seeded Dana Hills and eighth-seeded Canyon (Anaheim) before losing in the regional semifinals to fifth-seeded Granada Hills.

The state Division IV playoff bracket gave Fallbrook the seventh seed for the Southern region. Kennedy had the 10th seed, so the Cougars traveled to Fallbrook for the Feb. 27 first-round playoff game.

Fallbrook leveraged an 11-8 lead after the first quarter into a 30-20 halftime cushion. The 46-31 Fallbrook advantage after three periods turned into a 61-47 Warriors victory. Each of the Nordeen sisters scored 19 points with senior Claire Nordeen adding 17 rebounds, six steals, and three assists while freshman Grace Nordeen also had 10 rebounds, a steal, and an assist.

The 14 points from junior Janice Garcia were complemented by eight rebounds, three steals, two assists, and a blocked shot. The team leader with two blocked shots and with four steals, freshman Emery Pizzo, also scored six points, pulled down three rebounds, and recorded a steal. The other three points were scored by freshman Taylor Thomas, who also recorded four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

El Camino Real had the second seed, giving the Royals a Feb. 29 home playoff against Fallbrook. “They had the home crowd,” Harrison said. “It was a tough game. We pulled it off, but the numbers don’t say much about the score at all.”

Fallbrook had leads of 19-12 at the end of the first period and 34-24 at halftime. A 15-11 Royals scoring advantage in the third period narrowed the gap to 45-39. Fallbrook outscored El Camino Real by a 13-9 margin in the fourth quarter for a 58-48 triumph.

“It was a tough hard-fought game for us,” Harrison said.

Claire Nordeen provided 19 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Grace Nordeen had 18 points, nine rebounds, three steals, and an assist. Thomas scored 12 points, dished out five assists, grabbed two rebounds, and stole the ball twice. Garcia contributed six points, five rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Pizzo had the Warriors’ only blocked shot along with three points, four rebounds, two steals, and an assist.

Oceanside, which lost to Grossmont in the other section Division I semifinal, was seeded 11th in the state playoffs and defeated sixth-seeded Poly (Sun Valley) in the first round. The first-round results also included 14th-seeded Chatsworth defeating third-seeded Whittier Christian, so Oceanside hosted the Chancellors in the second round and won that game. Oceanside thus faced Fallbrook in the regional semifinal, and since the Warriors were the higher seed the Pirates made the trip to Fallbrook for the March 2 game.

“Another tough game,” Harrison said.

Fallbrook also hosted Oceanside in a Dec. 5 non-league game. The score was tied at halftime before the Warriors pulled out a 59-44 victory.

“Beating anybody twice is tough,” Harrison said. “We figured it out, but it was definitely a hard-fought game.

The Pirates entered the regional semifinal with a 21-9 record. “We had the home crowd,” Harrison said. “That helped us a bit.”

Oceanside was ahead by an 11-6 margin when the buzzer to end the first quarter sounded. The Pirates had a 19-17 halftime lead. A 14-10 Fallbrook scoring advantage in the third quarter made the score 31-29 in the Warriors’ favor. Fallbrook scored 11 points in the fourth period while Oceanside had six points to finalize the score at 42-35.

The ability to control the glass aided the Warriors. Fallbrook had 21 defensive rebounds and 18 offensive rebounds for a total of 39. Oceanside’s 20 rebounds consisted of 17 defensive and only three offensive ones.

Claire Nordeen pulled down 15 rebounds, Grace Nordeen took 14 balls off the boards, Garcia grabbed five rebounds, Thomas had three, and Pizzo provided two. Grace Nordeen scored 19 points, Garcia had 11 points, Claire Nordeen contributed eight points, and Pizzo shot four points into the nets.

Grace Nordeen had four steals, Claire Nordeen and Garcia each had two, and Pizzo took away one ball. Pizzo led the team with two assists with Claire Nordeen, Garcia, and Grace Nordeen each having one. Pizzo and Garcia each blocked a shot.

Fallbrook had the 11th seed in the 2023 San Diego Section Division I playoffs and Grossmont was seeded sixth, but the Warriors advanced with a 68-32 win over the Foothillers who were coached by Grace Campbell. “It bothered her the whole time,” Harrison said. “She wanted revenge and we made her fight for it. They had to earn it.”

Grossmont and Fallbrook both entered the state regional final with 26-8 season records. Grossmont and Helix shared the Grossmont Hills League championship while Fallbrook was the outright Valley League champion.

“They’re just a tough team. They’re fast. They’re aggressive. They’re well-coached, disciplined,” Harrison said.

The March 5 game at Grossmont had a 17-6 score in the Foothillers’ favor after one quarter. “The game started really rough for us,” Harrison said.

Fallbrook outscored Grossmont in the other three periods. “We won’t give up,” Harrison said. “We compete to the end, and that’s what happened.”

The Warriors were not able to make up the deficit. The halftime score was 27-17, and Grossmont entered the fourth quarter with a 42-35 lead.

A late three-point shot sealed the win for Grossmont. “It was a tight game at that point,” Harrison said.

“We did everything we needed to do to win the game,” Harrison said. “We were right there.”

Fallbrook’s scoring consisted of 14 points from Grace Nordeen, 12 from Claire Nordeen, nine by Thomas, eight from Pizzo, seven by Garcia, and two from sophomore Olivia Castillo.

Grace Nordeen had 13 rebounds, Claire Nordeen provided 10, Pizzo pulled down five, Garcia grabbed four, and Thomas took two. Claire Nordeen and Pizzo each had three steals and three assists, Grace Nordeen had two steals and an assist along with a blocked shot, Garcia had two assists, and Thomas had a steal and an assist.

“It was tough but a great learning experience for the team overall,” Harrison said. “It was a learning lessons, and the girls are taking it in stride.”

Grossmont lost in the state final to St. Bernard’s (Eureka), who had the Northern region’s top seed. Fallbrook ended the season with a 26-9 record, giving the Warriors the most wins in the lifetime of any of the players.

“They liked the success, and they wanted to continue that,” Harrison said. “We were excited about the season.”

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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