The Long Beach Poly girls’ basketball team has made its reputation with defense this year. In the Jackrabbits’ CIF Southern Section Open Division opener against Rosary, they made that rep flash in neon lights, locking down the Royals in an impressive win, 56-42.
Poly’s season ended last year at the hands of Rosary in overtime in the state playoffs. This year’s revenge tour was boosted by the play of sophomore Nala Williams, who came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points.
“She’s got ice in her veins,” said Poly coach Carl Buggs. “She’s special.”
The Jackrabbits total team defense was special, too, holding Rosary to just 15 points in the first half while building a 29-15 lead. Poly allowed just five points in the second quarter, including only one made field goal.
“We knew their offense pretty well and we did a good job of shutting it down,” said Poly’s Kalaya Buggs, who was playing in her first game in over a month since injuring her foot during the regular season. “I like that feeling, seeing people have to go to their second and third option and getting frustrated.”
Carl Buggs said he was “extremely pleased” with the job his team did shutting down the Rosary attack. San Diego State signee Asia Avinger had 12 points, but Poly built a double-digit lead early in the game and never let Rosary cut it to single digits.
“We didn’t want to let their creators create,” said Buggs. “We wanted to make the other players create, that was the goal.”
Poly also had the services of Lily Buggs on Saturday night. The junior missed last year with a knee injury, and Carl Buggs said after the season that he thought she would have been the difference-maker in tight losses like the one to Rosary last year. She proved her stat-stuffing ability on Saturday with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The performance of Williams stole the show, leaving fans buzzing.
“I saw a lot of my family in the stands and I was just feeling it,” she said. “They kept leaving me open so I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll just keep scoring then.’”
The Jackrabbits also got eight points from Lewis and six from Simone Morris.
The most important thing about Kalaya Buggs’ return is that it gives Poly much more flexibility defensively.
“We really missed her during the games against Windward and Sierra Canyon at the end of the season,” said Carl Buggs. “She’s steady, she’s a smart decision maker, and she can guard a lot of positions.”
The road continues for the Jackrabbits at home on Wednesday, where they’ll host Corona Centennial in their next Open Division game. They’ll finish Open pool play next Saturday on the road against Windward. If Poly wins both games, they’ll play in two weeks in the CIF-SS Open Division championship, which will be held at Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid.