Guards’ State Of Euphoria!

March 18, 2009 by  

FULLERTON — Freshman helps lead way for Bell-Jeff in win against View Park, 61-49, in regional final.

The Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls’ basketball team hadn’t been pushed to the brink by any team late in a game throughout the postseason.

That was, however, until the Guards faced View Park Prep Saturday in the Southern California Regional of the CIF State Basketball Division V Championships.

Bell-Jeff saw its lead dwindle down to two points with just over five minutes remaining, as its hopes of making it to the state final looked to be in jeopardy.

However, the Guards like being challenged, and they responded to the assault with a fine offensive run that helped them earn a 61-49 victory against the Knights at Cal State Fullerton.

Bell-Jeff senior Shelley Gupilan said her team didn’t mind when View Park made a run late in the game.

“We like situations like that, when teams come at us,” Gupilan said. “That is motivation for us to play harder.”

The win puts the Guards (33-1) into the state championship game for the first time in school history. Bell-Jeff will take on Pinewood at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Arco Arena in Sacramento.

Pinewood (31-4) of Los Altos Hills in Santa Clara County is from the Central California Section and is the No. 2 seed from the Northern California Regional. The Panthers defeated No. 1-seeded Branson, 41-30 — the two-time defending state champion — Saturday to win the regional championship.

Bell-Jeff, which won the school’s second Southern Section championship March 7, will have the opportunity to bring home the school’s first state title. In fact, the team championship would be the first by any program in the city in any sport.

The Guards players are excited about the opportunity to play for the championship.

“This is what we’ve been looking forward to,” freshman Rishonda Napier said. “Going to Sacramento is what we’ve been working so hard to do.”

Napier stepped up and kept Bell-Jeff in the game with a solid performance. She made her first seven shots from the field and was eight of 12 on the game to account for 19 points.

Napier took it to View Park (28-9) with an array of mid-range jumpers, driving layups and even two three-pointers for good measure.

“What I always say when Rishonda Napier’s name comes up is flat-out winner,” Bell-Jeff Coach Bryan Camacho said. “Being in this type of situation, she embraces it she performs at such a high level.”

Gupilan, who is averaging more than 20 points in the postseason, came up with another dominating effort. She led all scorers with 23 points. Junior teammate Margeaux Gupilan added 14 points, senior Elizabeth Hawthorne had seven rebounds and four steals and junior Julia Tani added four steals.

Camacho went to a zone defense in an attempt to naturalize View Park’s 6-foot-2 center Angel Smith. The defense worked, as Smith got into foul trouble and finished with just three field goals and six points.

The Guards took a comfortable 40-27 lead with 6:16 left in the third quarter on a bucket by Napier. However, the Knights mounted a big run, outscoring Bell-Jeff, 14-1, to end the quarter.

With their lead whittled down to six points heading into the fourth quarter, View Park kept up the assault. The Knights cut the advantage to 49-47, on a free throw by Shaneva Hayword with 5:12 left.

“Because we’ve been in a position like that before, we know to stay calm and we’ll be able to pull away eventually. And that’s what we did,” Hawthorne said.

Bell-Jeff proved up for the challenge, as it turned up its intensity and ended the game on a 12-2 run

Story by – Jeff Tully

Photo – Tammy Abbott/The Leader

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