A 17-2 start for Long Beach Poly (6-1, 5-0) did not accurately foretell how Friday night’s game against visiting Wilson (5-1, 4-1) would play out. The Jackrabbits won their previous four Moore League games by an average of over 62 points, but Wilson was unwilling to go quietly and cut Poly’s lead to single digits multiple times in the second half.
Ultimately, Poly would assert control of the game down the stretch to secure a 57-46 victory and close out the first round of Moore League play with a win. It was a rare–and needed–test for Carl Buggs’ team, and he was pleased with how his players weathered the Bruins’ charge.
“The good thing about this team is that (Wilson) fought back, but we kept going and kept fighting,” said Buggs after the win. “We made a big basket. made a stop, made another basket and that stopped their momentum. To me, that’s a sign of growth for our team. And it’s only our second tough game of the year, the rest have been blowouts. We need these kinds of games to grow and mature as a team.”
The Jackrabbits got production from their veterans, with senior Simone Morris leading the way with 18 points. She scored nine in the second quarter alone and connected with three three-pointers in the game. Senior Lily Buggs scored 14 but had all 10 of Poly’s fourth-quarter points to ice the game away.
“It’s good that we have games like this, because it lets us know what we need to work on and what we need to improve on,” said Lily Buggs. “It’s always good to play a team that shows your weaknesses in order for us to improve.”
Senior Kalaya Buggs scored all six of her points in the opening quarter to help get Poly started, and also dished out a game-high five assists. Junior Nala Williams chipped in six points and four dimes for the Jackrabbits.
Wilson was led by 18 points from senior point guard Ashley Hawkins, who started slow but made some big plays for the Bruins throughout. Senior Jasmine Stone chipped in nine points for Wilson. Bruins head coach Erin Carey was happy with how her team competed after its slow start.
“I’m proud of my girls,” said Carey. “I think this is one of the first games where our defense got us back into a game. From a coaching standpoint, you can’t get any happier than your defense making it a ballgame … I think I should have picked up the defensive pressure a little earlier. I think we put that on a little bit too late. To be down nine points in the fourth quarter against Poly, I couldn’t be more proud of my girls. So now we get them one more time and hopefully the outcome goes in our favor.”
The Jackrabbits shared the ball well in the early going, assisting on six of their first seven baskets to take that early 17-2 lead. Wilson was kept off the scoreboard until almost the midway point of the first quarter and trailed 19-7 after the first eight minutes.
After trailing 37-19 at intermission, Wilson opened the second half on a 14-5 run to cut the Poly advantage to nine (42-33) with three minutes left in the quarter. Wilson was able to trim the deficit to nine on two more occasions, but the Jackrabbits were too efficient working through Buggs on offense and Wilson was unable to knock down enough perimeter jumpers to get any closer.
Both teams are back in action on Saturday with Wilson making the short trip to face St. Anthony at 10 a.m. while Poly visits perpetual rival Mater Dei at 6 p.m.