TUSTIN — Sometimes the sounds of the game tell the story.
A passionate halftime speech by a senior. Cheers from the bench after a newly-installed play is executed. Chants from a closed locker room that vibrate throughout the gym.
Tustin High’s No. 13 girls basketball team produced this type of chorus on Friday, May 7 en route to a statement-making 50-31 victory against visiting No. 19 Crean Lutheran in the Empire League.
The defending league champion Tillers, ranked second in CIF Division 2AA to Alemany, handled the Saints, ranked seventh, for the second time this spring by 19 points. They cheered “This is our house!” after maintaining sole possession of first place.
“It’s pretty great,” Tustin coach Claire Gocke said of the echos from the Tillers’ locker room afterward.
“We usually split with them (Crean Lutheran). Obviously, they’re extremely excited. .. It’s going to be good momentum moving forward.”
A poignant speech by senior co-captain Zoey Barajas at halftime fueled a virtuosic performance by the Tillers in the third quarter.
Senior co-captain and fellow guard Alyssa Norada scored 13 of her game-high 24 points in the period as the Tillers broke open a three-point game at half.
Tustin (16-3, 6-0) outscored Crean Lutheran (9-4, 4-2) 17-4 in the third.
“I told them how much I knew we wanted to win and we couldn’t just let our emotions get the best of us,” said Barajas, who scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds. “We needed to come together as a team.”
Norada highlighted the quarter by going 3 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc She made back-to-back 3-pointers and drew a charge during one stretch that drew roars from the Tillers’ bench.
Norada, who is considering walking on at Cal, credited Barajas for her explosion. She made 2 of 7 shots from the floor in the first half but went 5 for 8 in the third.
“During halftime, we were kind of all down, and Zoey came in and put everyone in check, especially me because I got frustrated with myself,” Norada said of Barajas, who plans to attend Vanguard. “So we came out with a different mentality.”
Tustin’s bench also celebrated a put-back rebound by Tamiyah Boykin in the third and back-door basket by Abby Taylor on a lob pass from Barajas.
Taylor and Boykin each finished with six points while fellow junior Serenity Fields added four points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Taylor Feldman led the Saints with 17 points. Maya Bland added five points, 10 rebounds and took a charge for Crean Lutheran, which doesn’t start a senior.
“We came to ready to play the first half,” Crean Lutheran co-coach Bianca Ziemann said. “The second half, we did not execute. … Tustin executed and did everything they needed to but for my team, that X-factor of more experience, we don’t have right now.”
The sounds told the story.