Granada Hills Charter girls basketball’s patience pays off in win over Oaks Christian

WESTLAKE — Granada Hills Charter girls basketball faced a resilient group in a game against Oaks Christian on Friday night.

The Lions consistently battled back, but the Highlanders held steady to win the game 54-46 to end a two-game losing streak.

The team’s patient approach reflects coach Rai Colston’s mentality in his first year at the helm at Granada Hills.

“To get back to the City championship,” Colston said of his vision for the team. “This is the first time some of them are being put in these positions and playing. So just gotta be patient and coach them through.”

The Highlanders (2-3) reached the CIF Los Angeles City Section Open Division championship game last season, but fell to Westchester by seven points.

They’re finding their footing in the early games of this season as players’ roles become more clearly defined.

Guard Marianne Boco is currently sidelined due to an ACL injury and 6-foot-2 center Brigita Bulotaite is in a sit-out period after transferring from Taft.

Granada Hills is alternating point guards this season, but Natalie “Maow” Melendez scored 11 points against Oaks Christian (2-6) as she continues to master the position.

“(Point guard) is way harder than people think,” Melendez said. “I’ve never played starting point guard, and then other players on the team have never played their spots before. But we’re picking it up and I feel like the more games we play, the better we’re getting and we’re improving every day.”

Emma Perez, a 5-11 forward,  has emerged as a tenacious playmaker on this year’s team. The senior recorded a double-double in a Nov. 21 game against Valencia before leaving the game with a minor ankle injury. She scored 12 points in three quarters against the Lions on Friday.

Alyssa Badua (11 points) hit a 3-pointer to give Granada Hills 19-16 lead with roughly 6:15 left in the second quarter and the Highlanders held onto the lead until Oaks Christian’s Presley Kushner (18 points) tied the score at 25-all with a 3-pointer.

Emma Perez made two free throws and a jump shot before to give Granada Hills a 31-26 lead at halftime.

“I feel like me and Emma always play together. It’s like a dynamic duo-type,” Melendez said. “I feel like I can always rely on her. If I’m driving and she’s open, if I kick it out to her, she’ll make the shot.”

A 3 from Melendez gave the Highlanders a 10-point lead at the start of the third quarter, but Catherine McDonough made back-to-back layups with four minutes to go in the frame to close the gap to 38-32.

Granada Hills will reconvene for a postgame film session — something that Colston emphasizes — and continue to learn from previous versions of themselves as they continue to put the pieces together.

“It could be anybody’s night,” Colston said. “Just gonna have to work through it down the stretch. We’re just trying to get some comfort being in these new spots.”

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