Harvard-Westlake Sinks Bell-Jeff Once Again!

March 12, 2010 by  

HARVARD WESTLAKE – Skylar Tsutsui said she’s still getting accustomed to all the attention; the mobs of fans rushing the court, the video cameras pointed in her face and the postgame interviews.

But Tsutsui and her Harvard-Westlake of Studio City teammates demonstrated again Thursday night that when it comes to the big moments during the game, the Wolverines don’t get overwhelmed.

Tsutsui’s free throws with five seconds remaining helped the host Wolverines defeat Bell-Jeff of Burbank for the third time this season, sealing a 61-59 victory in the Southern California regional quarterfinals in the Div. IV state girls’ basketball playoffs.

Harvard-Westlake (31-1), which recorded its 27th consecutive victory, plays host at 7p.m. Saturday to St. Joseph of Santa Maria (26-4) in the regional semifinals.

“At first, I was so nervous, but I took a few deep breaths and that helped me become more relaxed,” said Tsutsui, who sealed Harvard-Westlake’s 58-54 victory Saturday over Bishop Montgomery of Torrance in the Southern Section Div. IV-AA final on a layup with seven seconds remaining.

“My dad always taught me, if I smiled in those situations, it helps. So, I smiled, and it worked. They both felt really good when they left my fingers. As soon as (the ball) left, I knew it was going in.”

Layana White, who led the Guards (25-7) with 16 points, tied the score at 59-59 on a layup with 13 seconds remaining. But Nicole Nesbit quickly pushed the ball into the frontcourt, before it was knocked away and White was whistled for a foul after hitting Tsutsui’s legs diving for the loose ball in the right corner.

Following Tsutsui’s free throws, Rishonda Napier took the inbounds pass for Bell-Jeff. But the Guards’ bid to win back-to-back state championships – after capturing the Div. V title last year – came up short after Napier’s shot from just inside half court hit off the backboard as time expired.

“We looked at our opponent in the eye for four quarters and we battled. The kids kept believing in each other and they were able to come through and make big shots, just like they had all year,” Bell-Jeff coach Bryan Camacho said.

“But give credit to Harvard-Westlake. They find a way to win. They’ve been through the ups and downs and they’ve been through the battles. Credit Nesbit and (Nicole) Hung, those kids are winners.”

After a 22-point loss Dec. 21 at the Nike Tournament of Champions and a 66-62 setback Jan. 5 to Harvard-Westlake, Bell-Jeff didn’t make the Wolverines’ return to the regional semifinals an easy task.

Harvard-Westlake held an eight-point lead with seven minutes remaining, but despite the efforts of Nicole Hung (21 points, nine rebounds), Sydney Haydel (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Nesbit (13 points, seven rebounds, five steals), the Guards didn’t back down.

But when Jasmine Smith (12 points, 13 rebounds) picked up her fifth foul with 4:16 left, it made Bell-Jeff’s task even tougher. The Guards rallied behind free throws from Napier and White’s basket to pull even, before Tsutsui (10 points) kept alive the Wolverines’ pursuit of a state title.

“We saw the girls’ soccer team lose and we didn’t want that to be us,” Nesbit said. “We want to keep it going for Harvard-Westlake.”

Erik Boal

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Comments

One Response to “Harvard-Westlake Sinks Bell-Jeff Once Again!”

  1. alum on March 13th, 2010 4:12 am

    I just wanted to say great job ladies on a very successful season. Even though the season was short of a championship, all of you are still champions.

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