You could run down a checklist of what could lead an elite team to have a tough game, and Tuesday evening’s CIF State Division 1A Southern California Regional opener between Long Beach Poly and Hamilton would check off every item. It was the Jackrabbits’ first game since their CIF-SS Division 1 championship win, for one. It was swelteringly hot in Poly’s gym, for another, and the early start time combined with the heat meant there wasn’t much energy coming from the crowd.
“Not a great game from us, but they got it done,” said Poly coach Carl Buggs of his players, who pulled off a 58-34 victory.
The Jackrabbits started slow offensively, missing their first seven shots and falling behind 4-0, a rarity in a postseason that’s seen them win every game by at least 20 points. The saving grace for Poly was terrific defense, giving up just six points in the first quarter, 11 in the second, and seven in the third. That meant that even though Poly averaged less than 12 points per quarter through the first three periods, they still led 25-17 at halftime and 35-24 headed to the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, a few quick steals-to-baskets helped loosen up the scoring and the Jackrabbits poured it on, outsourcing Hamilton 23-10 in the period to pull away.
Poly was led by 18 points from Lily Buggs and 16 points from Nala Williams. Sydney Blevins led Hamilton with 18 points.
The Jackrabbits will host their CIF-SS Division 1 opponent, Esperanza, in the SoCal Regional semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. If Poly wins they’d host the championship on Saturday evening.