The Long Beach Poly girls’ basketball team has been preparing all season for the test they took Saturday evening in the Ron Palmer Pavilion. The Jackrabbits, seeded No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 bracket, hosted their first playoff game of the year, and passed the test with flying colors in a 63-40 victory over Peninsula.
“My biggest concern is depth, and has been all year,” said Poly coach Carl Buggs. “With COVID, we didn’t get our normal preparation to get everyone ready. I’m extremely pleased with the way our first unit played, it was a good first game.”
Although it was Poly’s first game, it was the second round of the playoffs–as the top seed, the Jackrabbits were given a bye into the second round. That meant they were also facing a Panthers team fresh off a playoff victory, and hungry for more.
Poly shut the faucet off, though, sticking to their defensive gameplan and not allowing the first field goal of the game to Peninsula until there was 2:34 left in the first quarter; they didn’t allow a field goal at all in the second quarter, and not until 3:30 was left in the third quarter. In all, Poly’s starters allowed just four field goals in three quarters of work.
“We pride ourselves on defense first,” said Poly junior Nala Williams. “As long as we’re talking and playing how we know how to play, then we’re very confident in our defense.”
With the defense clamping down and allowing just seven points in the first quarter, two in the second quarter, and another seven in the third quarter, Poly didn’t need its offense to be all that crisp to win the game. But thanks to relentless offensive rebounding from Williams and others, the Jackrabbits scored plenty and led 17-7 after one, 36-9 at halftime, and 55-16 after three quarters.
“Coach Buggs told us that we were going ot have a lot of putback opportunities,” said Williams. “And so once I saw that nobody was boxing me out, I just went crazy.”
Williams scored 20 points in the first half alone and finished with a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds. She was backed up by Lily Buggs, who had 17 points, and Simone Morris, who had 10 points. Kalaya Buggs only had one field goal ( a nice spin move to the basket) but controlled the game completely from the point guard position.
Coach Buggs played the entirety of his bench throughout the fourth quarter, in a continuing effort to develop more depth for the Jackrabbits. Peninsula took advantage, however, and scored 24 points in the fourth quarter after having mustered just 16 points through the first three.
Peninsula’s Jadyn Lee, a standout sophomore, led them with 21 points.
Buggs was pleased with how his team played on both ends of the court, and especially pleased with the energy his team brought from the jump.
“We watched the boys team play last night and have a slow first half,” said Buggs. “So we talked about making sure you come out with energy and bring the pressure.”
Poly will travel to Bishop Montgomery on Wednesday for a CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinal game.