Firehawk girls defeat San Jacinto Wolves, advance to tonight’s CIF semifinal game

Team is hoping to seal a spot in the championship game in Newport Beach


BP Photo by Benjamin Gamson

CATCH: Junior Talia Tibi catches a pass in her first game back from injury as the Firehawks defeated the Banning Broncos 48-29 last Wednesday night.

By Noah Elad, Sports Editor

The Firehawks girls’ team advanced to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section Division 4A semifinals on Saturday night, defeating the San Jacinto Valley Academy Wolves in the quarterfinals 42-39 in the Shalhevet gym. 

The Feb. 19 win also qualified the team for the state playoffs.

Saturday’s game was close throughout, with both teams playing tight defense, especially in the first half. After the first quarter, the game was tied 13-13,  and then grew to a 22-15 Firehawk lead after the first half. The Wolves only scored two points in the second quarter. 

Approximately 200 total fans attended the game, of whom about 125 were Shalhevet students and faculty. 

There was much more action in the second half, with the Firehawks scoring 20 more points and the Wolves scoring 24 more points. 

Lead scorers for the Firehawks were Arielle Grossman with 14 points and Talia Tizabi with 13. 

Firehawks head coach Ryan Coleman said he was proud of the team but still thinks there is room for improvement. 

“I thought in stretches we played well enough to win, and in [other] stretches we didn’t play hard enough and we didn’t rebound well enough,” said Coach Coleman in an interview on Sunday, Feb. 20. 

Team captain Talia Tizabi, who plays center, said the players and coaches spent hours throughout the preceding week watching film of the other team to prepare for the quarterfinals game. 

“We knew that San Jacinto was a very talented team, so it was no surprise,” said Tizabi. “It was just about mentally focusing on not only our game but how they play their game.”

Junior Talia Tibi, who plays point guard, scored nine points Saturday night. She had missed most of the season after suffering a dislocated knee cap during the Steve Glouberman Annual Basketball Tournament last November.

“I was a bit nervous cause I haven’t played in like four months, and my first game back was a playoffs game that was very important,” said Tibi. “I was really nervous but I knew I had to do it for the school and for my team.”

Tibi returned to the court on Wednesday, Feb. 16 for the first time since her injury. The Firehawks defeated the Banning Broncos 48-29. Coach Coleman said it was essential to have her back in the lineup.

“Definitely helps getting Talia Tibi back on the floor, she is one of our primary ball handlers and we have been without her all year,” said Coach Coleman. “So I think having her out there definitely helped beat the pressure.”

Looking ahead, the Firehawks will be facing off against the Pacifica Christian/Orange County Tritons tonight at 7 p.m. in Newport Beach. The Tritons have 24 wins on the season with only four losses.

Definitely helps getting Talia Tibi back on the floor. … I think having her out there definitely helped beat the pressure.

— Coach Ryan Coleman

The Tritons have averaged a whopping 65 points per game this season, with the Firehawks averaging around 49. 

In their second-round playoff game, the Tritons defeated the Ramona Rams 74-13. They won their quarterfinals game 65-14 against the Sacred Heart of Jesus Comets. 

Earlier in the season, the Tritons won a game 104-8 against the Rancho Alamitos Vaqueros. 

Coach Coleman, Tibi and Tizabi all described the Tritons as one of the most talented teams they will ever face. The Tritons are favored to win the game tonight. 

“The team we are playing in the semi-finals is unbelievable,” said Coach Coleman. “They are on a different playing field from us or any other teams in our division.” 

Tizabi said the team has to try its best and stay focused to have a chance to win.

“I think it is going to be a real challenge to win, and I’m not saying it is impossible,” said Tizabi. “It isn’t comparable to any other team we have played. Some of them are scouted for D1 in college, so they are very, very talented.” 

In CIF’s playoff system, the top five seeded teams get a free pass to the second round, meaning they don’t have to play a first-round game. This is called a “bye,” and both the Firehawks and the Tritons had a bye in the first round. The Firehawks were the number five seed while the Tritons were the number one seed. 

Tibi said the Tritons will be one of the best teams they will ever play, and that the team has been strategizing for the best way to defeat them.

“Our strategy is to really rebound the ball, like offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, and force them to shoot from the three and hopefully that will be good.”

Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Gamson contributed reporting.