Castle Park hoop girls off to a 5-0 start in league play

Lady Trojans building on back-to-back Division IV Final Four finishes

Castle Park’s Asonte Jackson protects the ball during a defensive press by Sweetwater in the teams’ Jan. 8 South Bay League game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Last year’s Castle Park High School girls basketball team entered the San Diego Section Division IV playoffs as the tournament’s underdog as the No. 12 seed.

But the Lady Trojans did not play like a team ticketed for an early exit from the single-elimination tournament.

Castle Park upset fifth-seeded Pacific Ridge in the first round and proceeded to do the same to fourth-seeded Escondido Charter in the ensuing quarterfinals.

The Lady Trojans finally were eliminated by top-seeded Madison in the semifinals. Madison would go on to top second-seeded Foothills Christian, 47-45, in the championship game.

This year, Castle Park finds itself on the longer end of the stick rather the shorter end after tipping off South Bay League play with a 5-0 league record and nine non-league wins.

First-year CPHS coach Arturo Torralba said the team’s strong start was more or less expected based on its recent showing in the CIF playoffs.

The Lady Trojans charted a bold course to the Division IV championship game two years ago, finishing runner-up to San Dieguito Academy.

“We’ve been in the Final Four the past two years — that explains our playing ability,” Torralba said.

Sweetwater’s defense held Castle Park in check in the first half but the Lady Trojans were able to break out in the second half to post the come-from-behind South Bay League victory. Photo by Phillip Brents

Castle Park, which is currently ranked fifth among Division IV teams, defeated host Southwest, 52-25, in its league opener on Dec. 18 and followed with a 45-14 win over visiting San Ysidro on Dec. 20 before entering tournament play over the holiday break.

The Lady Trojans remained hot on the court despite the drop in the outside temperature by topping Sweetwater (46-43), Mar Vista (51-16) and Hilltop (46-40) to start the 2020 calendar year.

Castle Park trailed by eight points at halftime in its divisional matchup against visiting Sweetwater but rallied with a strong second half to hold off the Lady Red Devils (2-3 in league play, 5-11 overall).

“We started playing more poised,” Torralba said in regard to his team’s comeback win. “We started playing more under control. I think we were rattled by their press at the beginning of the game. We played more in control in the second half. We’re becoming more mentally together, which is what we need.”

Trailing 44-39 midway through the fourth quarter, Sweetwater narrowed the score to 44-42 on a three-point shot and then added a foul shot to make it a one-point game at 44-43.

But the hosts sank two shots from the charity stripe with 29 seconds left in the game to lead 46-43.

The Lady Red Devils missed two three-point attempts in the final seconds to fall short.

Stephanie McDonald paced Castle Park with 14 points while Letty Rodriguez dropped in 12 points. Asonte Jackson contributed eight points.

Isabel Morales scored seven points for Sweetwater.