Thursday night’s second-round CIF State Division II clash between the Long Beach Poly and Sage Hill girls’ basketball teams was a defensive masterclass between two high-quality teams. It was obvious from the low-scoring opening quarter that the game would come down to which team could make a play late in the game. In the end, it was Sage Hill that got the last clutch shot up in a nailbiting 42-39 win over Long Beach Poly.
The loss ends the season for the Jackrabbits, who had memorable runs to the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals and the CIF State Division II regional quarterfinal.
“I’m proud of our girls,” said Poly coach Carl Buggs. “We could have easily tucked our tails when we fell behind by 10, when we were behind eight in the fourth quarter, but we fought back. We made plays and we had a chance to tie it at the end, we executed the play. All you want is an opportunity, and I’m proud of this team.”
Poly led 6-5 after the first quarter, holding Sage Hill without a field goal for the first six minutes of the game, but holding just a one-point lead after scoring only two baskets themselves. A scoring spurt from Sage Hill gave them a 15-11 halftime lead, and then they carried a 28-23 lead into the fourth quarter.
Skylar Mills scored eight points for Poly in the fourth and Nala Williams hit a pair of free throws to bring Poly to within a point at 37-36 with 37 seconds left. Sage Hills hit two free throws to make it a three-point game, then sophomore Andrea Perkins nailed a clutch 3-pointer to tie the game with 19 seconds left.
Perkins had passed up a 3-pointer earlier in the game to her own and Buggs’ frustration.
“That shows growth even within a game, not talking about the whole season,” said Buggs. “Whether she made it or missed it I was happy she stepped up and shot that with confidence.”
Sage Hill got a clutch bucket from their own sophomore, though, as Zoie Lamkin hit just her second basket of the game to put Sage Hill up three with five seconds left.
Poly had a perfect play out of the timeout to advance the ball down the court with three passes and get it to the hands of Mills, who had a great look but had the ball bounce just a little hard off the rim.
Annabelle Spotts led Sage Hill with 17 points while Poly was led by Mills’ 11 points. Williams had eight points, and was clearly playing through injuries to her shoulder and ankle.
“She’s been injured basically the whole season but she carried us,” said Buggs. “She has grit. She’s a Jackrabbit. She has that Poly mindset of, whatever I need to do. She accepted the challenge and responded. I’m extremely proud of her.”
Poly will return freshman Helena Vu along with sophomores Perkins and Jaleina Taliauli, who came on strong in the playoffs and had eight points on Thursday.