LANCASTER — In a game that matched dominating rebounding against pressure defense, the rebounding edge proved the difference as the Lancaster High School girls basketball team held off visiting Thousand Oaks, 59-52, Thursday night in the opening round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs.

The victory moves the Eagles (18-7) into a second-round match at home against San Juan Hills (22-5), which defeated Chaparral 59-49 on Thursday. Thousand Oaks ends its season at 18-10.

Lancaster had quite a bit of difficulty with the visiting Lancers’ pressure in the early going, allowing the visitors to jump out to a 14-5 lead. But layups by junior forward Rayshanti McNeal-Price and senior guard Brooklyn Curry and a rebound basket by McNeal-Price cut the margin to 14-11 at the end of the first quarter.

Thousand Oaks opened the lead up to five points early in the second period, but a three-point shot by junior guard Kristen Lopez and a layup by junior forward Vanessa Fletes tied the score at 18-all. The visitors then retook the lead at 21-18 before the Eagles scored the final nine points of the period, seven by Lopez, for a 27-21 halftime edge.

The third quarter was all Lancaster as the Eagles used a series of layups (three by McNeal-Price and four by sophomore guard Mea Madison) to open up a 41-29 advantage just before the end of the period.

That lead grew to 13 at 46-33 at the start of the final period, but the Lancers used more pressure defense, especially on inbounds passes, and some key three-point shooting to fuel a 10-0 run, narrowing the score to 46-43 with just under four minutes to play, and pulled to within one at 49-48 with about 2:30 left.

However, a rebound basket by McNeal-Price and a free throw by Fletes pushed the lead back to four, and layups by Fletes and Curry followed by a 3-pointer by Lopez kept the visitors at bay down the stretch as the Lancers’ shooting went ice cold.

McNeal-Price led a balanced Lancaster attack with 16 points, while Lopez contributed 13 and Madison and Fletes added 11 each.

Senior guard Katie Messer led the Lancers with 24 points and senior guard Jess Magallenes put in 12.

“I’m so proud of the way we played as a team,” Eagles head coach Jessica Morrison said. “We always stress that every play matters.

“I’m really glad it worked out for the team.”

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