Backcourt Helps Bell-Jeff Girls’ Regroup!

January 1, 2011 by  

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: Bell-Jeff rebounds from loss to Troy, defeats La Costa Canyon in third-place game.

Bell-Jeff wasn’t going to let a loss to Troy in the semifinals of the West Coast Holiday Festival leave a lasting impression entering the new year.

So, the Guards took advantage of their opportunity at redemption Friday by beginning their march toward the Southern Section girls’ basketball playoffs, with their desired destination the Div. III-A final.

Rishonda Napier had 21 points and all-tournament selection Leslie Lopez-Wood added 17 points for Bell-Jeff, offsetting a 24-point effort from La Costa Canyon 6-foot-4 senior Madisen Irwin in a 63-51 victory in the third-place game at Burroughs High.

“We have to turn it up now, there’s no other way to say it. We have to step up our game,” Lopez-Wood said. “The deeper we get in the season, the tougher the competition is going to get.”

Bell-Jeff (11-4) hurt its cause in the 38-33 loss to Troy by falling behind 20-7, due in part to coach Jaclyn Johnson benching several starters for disciplinary reasons. But the Guards didn’t endure a repeat against La Costa Canyon (9-3).

“(Thursday) is gone. There’s no turning back,” Napier said. “But our season is not about one game. It’s about getting better every day and growing together. It was important for us to come back and feel good about a game. We had fun and we played together.”

Especially Lopez-Wood and Napier, who benefited from the blue-collar efforts inside from Jasmine Smith (nine points) and Kiah Jones (four points) against the San Francisco-bound Irwin that created open looks on the perimeter.

Lopez-Wood and Napier both had three 3-pointers, combining for five field goals from behind the arc in the first half, when Bell-Jeff stretched a three-point, first-quarter lead into a 39-29 halftime advantage.

“When you have great shooters like Leslie who are able to stretch out the floor, it makes them respect our game, both inside and out,” Napier said.

“It took us a little while to recognize what they were doing, but once we did, we finally got our groove going.”

Although Irwin connected on nine field goals against Bell-Jeff’s undersized front line, she didn’t receive much offensive support against the Guards’ full-court pressure. Only four other Mavericks scored, with Jen Dumiak contributing 16 points.

“We have a lot of heart on defense,” Napier said. “We knew we had to contain her the best we could.”

Although Lopez-Wood, who was nursing a sore ankle, and Napier combined for only four points in the final quarter, LaCosta Canyon could never cut the deficit under 10 points.

“It was a good thing to end on a good note like this,” Lopez-Wood said. “It’s a new year and our mindset has to be on winning. We have some big goals we want to achieve and hopefully, with God’s grace, we’ll be able to do so.”

Erik Boal

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