Top-seeded Long Beach Poly earned a comfortable win in Wednesday night’s CIF-SS Division 1 girls’ basketball quarterfinal, pulling away for a 69-47 victory at Bishop Montgomery to advance to Saturday’s semifinal.
The Jackrabbits got a game-high 26 points from junior Nala Williams while senior Lily Buggs poured in 23. Kalaya Buggs dished out a half-dozen assists while running the offense, and senior Khalei Gentle had a productive night in the paint, scoring eight points while battling well on the boards.
Poly’s defensive game plan was to key in on Bishop Montgomery forward Khylee Pepe (who is signed with San Diego State) and force the Knights into perimeter jumpshots. That plan worked as Bishop Montgomery hoisted several long-range attempts but were only able to connect on three triples for the game.
“We couldn’t let their guards penetrate, and when we stopped that it made them one dimensional,” explained Poly head coach Carl Buggs. “And we tried to make it difficult for them to get the ball into the post, and when we did that we made stops. That’s how we controlled the game, because that’s their strength. I was proud of the girls, they stepped up and hit some shots, and I thought they did a great job with the game plan.”
“I just think we came out with a lot of energy and intensity like coach told us to,” said Williams. “We were just talking on defense and doing everything we went over in practice. We were very happy with how our defense played, the help side was there and we were always communicating.”
The Knights were able to hang with the Jackrabbits for the first quarter, as Pepe had seven of her team-high 19 points in the opening frame. Lily Buggs had nine to pace the Jackrabbits in that quarter as Poly led 15-14 after eight minutes.
“I’m not really the type that wants to just go out and score, but if I see the opportunity I like to take it, because that’s what I’m expected to do in these situations,” said Lily Buggs after the win. “We were talking in practice how I needed to be one of the players attacking the middle and keeping that intensity constantly.”
The Jackrabbits certainly brought intensity in the second quarter, when they held the Knights to just six points. Poly opened the period on a 13-2 run to grow the lead to a dozen, and Bishop Montgomery never got within single digits the rest of the night.
Poly also had a huge advantage at the free-throw line, if you’re judging by efficiency. As a team, the Jackrabbits were 9/12 at the charity stripe, while the host Knights struggled in their home gym, going just 14/29 at the line.
The Jackrabbits don’t know who they’ll face in the semifinals, but they do know they’ll have an extra day of rest as Roosevelt and Fairmont Prep play Thursday night in the adjacent quarterfinal. If Roosevelt wins, Poly will be on the road on Saturday, but if Fairmont Prep wins then the semifinal will be played at Ron Palmer Pavilion.