The Long Beach Poly girls’ basketball team has not lost a Moore League contest since 2008, but head coach Carl Buggs admitted that this year the gap between his Jackrabbits and league foes like Wilson and Millikan was not as big as it’s been in years past, due in large part to the Jackrabbits’ inexperienced roster. Case in point: Poly led by just two points at halftime at Wilson in their league opener Monday evening, before eventually pulling away to win it, 63-50.
One big reason for Poly’s win was senior Nala Williams, who led the way with 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Whatever Poly needed in a given play, she provided it–scoring to cut off a Wilson run, guarding a hot shooter for the Bruins, or finding open teammates to get them involved.
“That’s what a leader needs to do,” said Poly coach Carl Buggs. “She’s been around good leaders over the last three years, and she knows how to get it done. She stepped up tonight to make those plays.”
Wilson’s dynamic backcourt duo of Sydney Ross and Laurin Tiangco pushed the pace all night and definitely caught Poly off-guard out of the gate, springing out to a 9-2 lead early in the game. Williams scored nine points in the first quarter to give the Jackrabbits a 13-11 lead after the first, and they didn’t relinquish the lead until early in the third, when a bucket from Ross tied the game at 30-30.
But Poly’s young players had settled into the flow of the game at that point, and the Jackrabbits would utilize an 11-0 run to take control of the game in the third, then held Wilson off by seven or more points the rest of the way.
“We kept making stops and then making baskets when we needed to, we were able to keep them from really getting going in that second half,” said Buggs.
The Jackrabbits’ youth came through as well. Freshman Helena Vu had 12 points, and sophomore Jaleina Taliauli had a dozen as well. Senior Skylar Mills hit a pair of huge 3’s as part of her nine-point performance.
“Our younger players were a little bit nervous as you could tell early in the game, but as it went on they started playing their game and playing Poly basketball, like our tradition,” said Williams.
There were plenty of positives to build on for the Bruins. As Poly started backing off of the Bruins guards in the second half to allow them to shoot instead of driving, Wilson wasn’t able to take advantage–they hit just one three-pointer in the game, an early triple in the first quarter from Justice Vincent.
First-year coach DJ Vincent saw things to build on, but wasn’t accepting of any moral victories despite the close margin.
“We never stopped playing, we don’t believe in backing down from anybody,” said Vincent. “Whoever comes into the gym we’re ready to play, I don’t care if it’s St. Anthony or Poly, we believe that we can beat anybody. And we’ll turn it around, we’re working our way there.”
Wilson was led by 13 points from Sydney Ross and eight apiece from Lili Triassi and Tiangco.