Van Nuys Girls Basketball overcomes a slow start to advance past Cleveland 54-43 to the CIF L.A. City Division II Finals


The Van Nuys Wolves soared into Birmingham Community Charter High School on Saturday, February 17th, 2024 looking to get one step closer to their goal of a city championship. Despite an 18-2 record on the season, the No.3 Wolves were considered underdogs against the No.2 seeded 14-14 Cleveland Cavaliers in their matchup in the CIF L.A. City Section Division II Girls Basketball Semifinals. After falling behind by double digits in the first half, Van Nuys clawed their way back into the game through their resilience and defensive prowess. The Cavaliers relinquished their lead in the second half, as the Wolves overwhelmed their opponents on their way to a 54-43 win to end their season.

The Wolves made it to CIF Semifinals on the heels of their defense having held both of their playoff opponents to 18 and 29 total points respectively in the first two rounds. Not to be intimidated by their reputation on defense, the Cavaliers started off the contest hot from the three-point line. Knocking down their perimeter shots while consequently slowing down Van Nuys offensively, Cleveland took a 26-13 lead with 4:38 left in the first half.

Van Nuys increased their intensity on both ends of the court, as they smothered the Cavaliers offense into turning the basketball over. “I loved the energy!” claimed Van Nuys Head Coach Sara Marroquin, “We had to pick it up on defense.” The Wolves offense began to catch fire during a 10-3 run before Cleveland converted a layup at the buzzer to make it a 31-23 halftime deficit.

The second half started with the Cavaliers asserting themselves on the offensive boards, yet were unable to convert the opportunities into second-chance points. The stout Wolves defense continued to demonstrate their ability to contain the paint alongside the backcourt and forced their opponents to take perimeter shots. Their defensive momentum translated to the offensive side of the ball, as Van Nuys went on a 16-3 run to take a 39-34 lead. Cleveland only converted 6 of their 13 free throw attempts in the third quarter.

Van Nuys maintained a five point lead into the fourth quarter where they quickly scored six unanswered points to extend the lead to eleven. The constant defensive pressure throughout the court from the Wolves frustrated the Cavaliers. Van Nuys only allowed 5 points in the fourth quarter and 13 total in the second half. They used their physicality on the offensive boards and claimed their place in the CIF City Section D2 Finals, maintaining a double-digit lead in the process. Coach Marroquin focused on the importance of the little things for her team as Van Nuys will return to Birmingham to face their Valley Mission League rival, and ’23-’24 co-league champions, Kennedy for a city championship on Friday night at 6:00. 

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