“We battled for four quarters, and I can’t ask for more than that,” said Bell-Jeff Coach Bryan Camacho, whose team was the No. 9 seed. “They battled and they gave it everything that they had. I can’t be more proud of our effort.”
Bell-Jeff (25-7) — which won Southern Section and state titles in 2009 — came back from a 10-point disadvantage to tie the score at 59 with 13 seconds left when Layana White drove the length of the floor for a layup.
On the ensuing possession, Bell-Jeff was called for a loose-ball foul, sending junior Skylar Tsutsui to the line with 5.3 seconds remaining.
“I was so nervous,” Tsutsui said. “I was just taking deep breaths and trying not to think about it.”
Tsutsui calmly sank both of her free throws to give Harvard-Westlake (31-1) a two-point lead, 61-59.
The Guards hurried the ball down the floor to attempt a last-second shot. However Rishonda Napier’s desperation heave from inside the half-court line missed its mark.
It was the third time this season the Guards have lost to the Wolverines.
“The kids kept believing in each other and they were able to come through and make big shots, just like they had all year,” Camacho said. “I give them a lot of credit for battling back and keeping us in the game.”
The Guards were paced by junior Layana White, who had 16 points.
Bell-Jeff was hampered in the fourth quarter by the absence of sophomore Jasmine Smith, who picked up her fifth foul and had to leave the game with 4:16 remaining.
Smith had 12 points and 13 rebounds and was able to keep the Guards in the game with her fierce play around the basket.
Harvard-Westlake, which has three players who have committed to Division I colleges, did a good job at controlling the tempo for most of the game.
Princeton-bound Nicole Hung had 21 points and nine rebounds, Sydney Haydel, who is headed to Hawaii, had 10 points and 12 rebounds and UC Santa Barbara-bound Nicole Nesbit had 13 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
“Give credit to Harvard-Westlake,” Camacho said. “They find a way to win. They’ve been through the ups and downs and they’ve been through the battles. Credit Nesbit and Hung, those kids are winners.”
Bell-Jeff, which won its third straight Santa Cruz League championship this season, took its only lead of the game, 4-3, early in the first quarter.
But the Wolverines cranked up their intensity later in the quarter and finished the first with a 22-14 advantage.
The Guards were able to outscore their opponent, 15-12, in the second quarter, as Harvard-Westlake took a 34-29 lead into the half.
The Wolverines led, 52-46, after three quarters.
Senior Julia Tani chipped in 10 points and fellow senior Margeaux Gupilan also had 10.