The Long Beach Poly girls’ basketball team played good defense but couldn’t come up with enough scoring to beat Windward on the road in the CIF Southern Section Open Division pool play finale on Saturday night. A trip to Friday’s Open Division championship was at stake, but that spot went to the Wildcats after a 52-41 win over the Jackrabbits.
“They did a good job on us defensively,” said Poly coach Carl Buggs. “And they hurt us with offensive rebounding. We talked about that before the game and said if we don’t box out it’ll be a long night.”
The Jackrabbits have faced almost exclusively zone defenses, but Windward came with a more aggressive man defense that seemed to disrupt Poly’s tempo offensively.
“We forced shots, we missed shots, we weren’t in rhythm,” said Buggs. “You’ve got to give their defense credit.”
Poly was in the game early but fell behind in the second quarter as they were outscored 16-9. Poly played Windward even after that but couldn’t get the consecutive scores and stops they needed to make it closer. Windward freshman phenom JuJu Watkins went off for 23 points in the game.
“Poly is so well-coached,” said Windward coach Vanessa Nygaard. “Coach Buggs is a legend, and they’re a really, really tough out. We just wanted to play a different defense and we went man. Our team has really embraced that and getting better at that.”
Poly was led by 12 points from Simone Morris but shot just 15-for-41 in the game and just 3-for-14 from 3-point range.
The Wildcats will advance to face Mater Dei in the Open Division final at the Walter Pyramid Friday at 5 p.m., while Poly will away next Sunday’s CIF State bracket.