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Guards’ state of euphoria

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: Freshman helps lead way for Bell-Jeff in win against View Park, 61-49, in regional final.

March 18, 2009|By Jeff Tully

FULLERTON — The Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls’ basketball team hadn’t been pushed to the brink by any team late in a game throughout the postseason.

That was, however, until the Guards faced View Park Prep Saturday in the Southern California Regional of the CIF State Basketball Division V Championships.

Bell-Jeff saw its lead dwindle down to two points with just over five minutes remaining, as its hopes of making it to the state final looked to be in jeopardy.

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However, the Guards like being challenged, and they responded to the assault with a fine offensive run that helped them earn a 61-49 victory against the Knights at Cal State Fullerton.

Bell-Jeff senior Shelley Gupilan said her team didn’t mind when View Park made a run late in the game.

“We like situations like that, when teams come at us,” Gupilan said. “That is motivation for us to play harder.”

The win puts the Guards (33-1) into the state championship game for the first time in school history. Bell-Jeff will take on Pinewood at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Arco Arena in Sacramento.

Pinewood (31-4) of Los Altos Hills in Santa Clara County is from the Central California Section and is the No. 2 seed from the Northern California Regional. The Panthers defeated No. 1-seeded Branson, 41-30 — the two-time defending state champion — Saturday to win the regional championship.

Bell-Jeff, which won the school’s second Southern Section championship March 7, will have the opportunity to bring home the school’s first state title. In fact, the team championship would be the first by any program in the city in any sport.

The Guards players are excited about the opportunity to play for the championship.

“This is what we’ve been looking forward to,” freshman Rishonda Napier said. “Going to Sacramento is what we’ve been working so hard to do.”

Napier stepped up and kept Bell-Jeff in the game with a solid performance. She made her first seven shots from the field and was eight of 12 on the game to account for 19 points.

Napier took it to View Park (28-9) with an array of mid-range jumpers, driving layups and even two three-pointers for good measure.

“What I always say when Rishonda Napier’s name comes up is flat-out winner,” Bell-Jeff Coach Bryan Camacho said. “Being in this type of situation, she embraces it she performs at such a high level.”

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