Basketball Long Beach Poly

FEATURE: Defense First For Long Beach Poly Girls Hoops

It’s the end of practice before Long Beach Poly girls’ basketball’s biggest week of the Moore League season, with games looming against Lakewood, Wilson, and Millikan. The Jackrabbits haven’t lost a league game in 12 years, and longtime head coach Carl Buggs is determined to keep it that way.

He calls his team together, with a simple command. 

“This is going to take some work,” he says. “Going to take some real work.”

In his hand, Buggs is clasping the secret weapon behind the Jackrabbits’ surprising season, which has seen them as high as No. 10 in the nation, and has them No. 4 in the Open Division, hosting Rosary tonight at 7 p.m.

The secret weapon? A manila folder.

On that folder, Buggs has written out a detailed scouting report of Lakewood, the team the Jackrabbits will face first that next week. Over the next half hour, the Jackrabbits break down in excruciating deal every aspect of the Lancers’ offense. They learn individual and team tendencies, they learn who’s driving to kick versus who’s driving to shoot, they learn where shooters like to catch the ball, they mathematically break down ball denial philosophies for reigning Moore League Player of the Year Asia Jordan.

By the end of the scout session, post player Ashlee Lewis is giving reminders to the scout team about where to move the ball and at what speed to give the starting defense the best look possible.

“Our approach is just, get a stop,” Lewis says after practice. “If you can’t score, you can’t win.”

Lewis, who says her favorite pro player is Patrick Beverley, relishes watching film and figuring other teams out.

“We go through everything with a fine tooth comb, we all watch film, I watch film with my parents, too,” she says. “I like being able to dissect what the other team does.”

Relentless film study and scout preparation is a big part of the Jackrabbits’ run under Buggs and his wife, assistant coach Lakeisha Buggs. It’s how Poly has powered their way to several major upsets this year, holding highly-ranked Etiwanda to 28 points in one game, holding acclaimed point guard and Oregon signee Tehina Paopao to 3/20 shooting in another.

“Our defense has to keep us in the game,” says Buggs. “It’s a grind, every day, every practice, every game is a grind. The paying attention to detail is so huge because we put in a detailed game plan. If we get a turnover, the detail has paid dividends. That’s why I’m up half the damn night watching video looking for every edge.”

That film study is possible because of the efforts of John Gean, a dedicated Poly volunteer who’s been gathering film on Poly opponents for the school’s basketball teams since Ron Palmer was coaching there (Palmer called Gean his “secret weapon” in an LA Times story).

The Buggs’ daughter, Kalaya, is one of the most important pieces of the team’s defense because she can guard every position. Not surprisingly, she grew up with her parents’ work ethic; she began watching film on her opponents while she was still in middle school.

“My parents watch film of every game we play too, and I’ll go back with them and sit and watch,” she says.

For Carl Buggs, the detail-oriented approach came from his mentor, a name that might surprise those who aren’t familiar with his unique history in the city: John Gonsalves, the legendary Long Beach State baseball coach.

“It all comes from playing baseball at Long Beach State under John Gonsalves,” says Buggs. “He believed in preparation and details. We’d have a three-hour practice, we’d check the board for the entire practice, and every 15-20 minutes there was something else going on. You had to know where you were supposed to be for every period, because you couldn’t go back and check. We have a scout team where everyone has a responsibility–they know that they have to hold themselves accountable.”

The result is a grind-it-out, defense-first approach. Others might call it ugly or old school–Buggs calls it Poly basketball, and so far, it’s been working this season.


Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.