Perhaps no team in the city represented the nationwide perseverance through the COVID-19 pandemic than the Long Beach Poly girls’ basketball team, which overcame the odds to win a CIF Southern Section Division 1 and a CIF State Southern California Regional championship.
The Jackrabbits finished the season at 18-2, but their story was so much more dramatic than just wins and losses and championships. The team started the season with only four experienced varsity players, and worked hard all year to develop depth, which shone through by the time the playoffs rolled around. They also had to deal with a COVID-19 shutdown, after being informed that Mater Dei had played a player during their game against the Jackrabbits who later tested positive for the virus.
Poly never had a player or coach test positive, but they did have to do a full shutdown midseason and go into quarantine. Given that they were fresh off a 53-point loss to the Monarchs, it’s easy to see how things could have gone off the rails. Instead, they watched film and did individual workouts during their season pause, then took the court again and proceeded to win every game for the rest of the year, including an impressive 8-0 run in the playoffs that saw them dominate every team they played, especially on the defensive end of the court.
They also had the privilege of winning both of their championships on their home court, and were the only Long Beach team this year to win both a CIF-SS title and a CIF State Regional title. Kalaya Buggs had a record-breaking performance in the playoffs, Lily Buggs (no relation) earned Moore League Player of the Year and CIF-SS Player of the Year honors, and Simone Morris and Nala Williams both had huge performances throughout the season and playoffs.
All of the Poly players and coaches talked about how much the family-like atmosphere of the team meant to them after their magical run had ended, and we’re proud to honor them as our girls’ honoree for Team of the Year in this year’s All-City awards.