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Etiwanda pulls away from Orangewood Academy after competitive first half to win big: 3 takeaways

Destiny Agubata led the game with 26 points and 16 rebounds for Etiwanda.

GARDEN GROVE– Etiwanda defeated Orangewood Academy 83-47 on Saturday in a game that was close after one half before E-High went on a late-game rampage. Destiny Agubata led the game with 26 points and 16 rebounds (10 offensive) for Etiwanda, and Kennedy Smith totaled 21 points, four steals, and four blocks. Here are three takeaways from the game:

ORANGEWOOD PLAYS BRILLIANT FIRST HALF, BUT ETIWANDA RECALIBRATES AND SHOWS OUT DESPITE MISSING TWO STARTERS

Not only did the Eagles come into this game 14-0, but almost none of their opponents have come even close to playing them down to the wire. So, even though OA is a top-30 team in the state and rising, it turned heads by proving able to go blow for blow with the top-ranked team in the state in the first half. Etiwanda's lead was as low as one point in the middle of the second quarter, and OA only trailed by seven points at halftime.

Injuries were certainly a factor for Etiwanda. The Eagles were in their first game of a temporary absence of starting wings Daisia Mitchell and Majesty Cade, who both left Saturday's win against Windward and were ruled out for the rest of the game. Cade is scheduled to return on Saturday against Cathedral Catholic, and Mitchell, Etiwanda's senior captain, will miss 2-3 weeks following a knee injury.

"The first half, we were still making adjustments with the two new rotation spots... without having our normal starting lineup, we had to see how it played out. The first half, we were still trying to see where we were at," said Etiwanda head coach Stan Delus.

"Once we made some adjustments at the half, and we were able to make some adjustments defensively up top with Hannah [Stines], then we were ready to settle back in. And we... already have been a good second-half team."

While the Eagles are a long shot from 100% right now, they still looked like the world-beaters that they've been all season for the majority of the night. The Spartans played them close in the first half because the Spartans were playing at the level of a legitimate Open Division playoff threat.

And then, they felt the wrath of one of the absolute best basketball teams in the country. E-High started pulling away in the third quarter, after which it led 55-42, and obliterated Orangewood 28-5 in the final frame.

Getting games has been a struggle for Etiwanda under the unusual pandemic-related scheduling circumstances because just about nobody will dare to play them. After the game, Delus voiced his appreciation for Aragon for choosing to take Etiwanda on under the season's unusual circumstances – even with a team starting mostly underclassmen, including two freshmen.

"Coach Aragon knew that we had lost games and didn't replace them, and he said, 'You know what man, I'm going to give my girls a shot and play you.' And I really appreciate that when he didn't have to because we've been turned down almost 35 times in the last two weeks... We need the games."

Freshman PG Aliyahna "Puff" Morris scored 17 points for the Eagles, and junior F Sa'lah Hemingway added 15.

As terrifying as it sounds for the rest of the state, Delus believes the best is yet to come from his also-young Eagles.

"I think we are in a position right now to get better... I don't even think we are 50% of our potential yet. I still think we're going to get better.... my group is young. I have 13 of 15 coming back [next year]. We're going to grind it out and continue to see where we can improve," said Delus. "I think we're going to be even tougher. I give my group a lot of credit. We play all the way to exhaustion."

SPARTANS SET TO BUILD ON FIRST-HALF BRILLIANCE

The last 12 minutes or so from Etiwanda were so strong that both the final score and the vibes in the gym during the game's final minutes were both indicative of a blowout. But this game should be considered a major stock-riser for Orangewood Academy. 4-star Washington commit Hannah Stines put up 22 points and 10 rebounds for OA in addition to handful of assists and blocks. Junior PF Juice Brown played bigger than her line of nine points and 10 rebounds would indicate, and she made a handful of energizing hustle plays.

"For about two-and-a-half quarters, I felt good. I wish we could do something about that quarter-and-a-half at the end," said OA head coach Leslie Aragon.

"We're going to try to not dodge anybody and play whoever we can. Did I think we were going to beat Etiwanda tonight? No, but we started believing little by little... I certainly hope that we can hang onto those two-and-a-half quarters... if we play that way, we can play with anybody. If we just hang onto that – that's what I hope to take from it."

"I don't think there's a team in America that can match up with them... and Stan is an amazing coach. I wish we could've kept it closer. The first punch we took, but they just kept coming, and we couldn't withstand that second round."

KENNEDY SMITH IMPRESSES IN ATYPICAL DEFENSIVE ROLE

Kennedy Smith, a hybrid forward by trade, usually plays the de facto five spot for center-less Etiwanda, especially on the defensive end. At 6-1 with above-average length and the fluidity of a guard, she's generally utilized as a rim-protecting paint anchor who's also highly switchable. In this one, for contrast, she was picking up one of the best lead guards in the country, 4-star Washington commit Hannah Stines, at half court all game long.

And Smith did a heck of a job. Stines still finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, but had to work very hard for what she got – with all four of her made threes coming from several feet behind the arc – and wasn't able to sustain a rhythm in the second half.

Delus explained in detail why he chose to put his defensive center on Stines:

"Usually it would've been Daisia. She's our most athletic, long guard. I needed Destiny to block out Juice [Brown] because she's very physical and athletic, and I knew that Kennedy's length would smother [Stines]. [Stines] made some tough shots... but she's a great player, so we can live with that, and we knew that on the back end we could rebound. Being able to keep her in front of us was the main thing, she got some great shots and I gotta give it to her – that's why she's going Pac-12. But we wanted to box in everybody else, not over-help, not over-rotate, and keep everyone else outside. We [boxed out] well when they were in a five-out (offense), so that worked to our advantage."

Stines was impressed with the defense too. "She's a really good defender, it was really hard to shake her," she said. "The whole team is a good defensive team, so it was really hard, they forced a lot of turnovers on me. It was fun, but they're a great defensive team."

"She's long, and she can defend... I've never played someone like that."

Smith was already a very good defensive player as a freshman, but this season she's taken the leap as one of the premier defensive presences in the section – probably the state – and one of the absolute most versatile ones.

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    Leslie Aragon, Orangewood Academy girls basketball
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