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Torrid Bell-Jeff comeback

Girls' basketball: Guards come back in second half to win quarterfinal game at home, 77-73.

February 25, 2011|By Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com
(Cheryl A. Guerrero…)

BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH — As leaders on the Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' basketball team, Rishonda Napier and Jasmine Smith have experienced the rigors and pressure of compiling deep runs in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

The two were instrumental in leading the Guards to a state championship in 2009, as well as helping the team to the semifinals a year ago.

With Bell-Jeff trailing Antelope Valley on Wednesday in a Division III-A quarterfinal contest, the Guards needed Napier and Smith to step up. And step up they did.

Both juniors led the way with fine performances in the fourth quarter to fuel a torrid and gutsy comeback by the Guards in a 77-73 victory at Bell-Jeff.

"That's why they're our team captains," said first-year Bell-Jeff Coach Jaclyn Johnson about the talented pair. "They know we expect a great deal from them and they are always willing to step up when we need them."

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The win puts the No. 4-seeded Guards (22-6) — who won the Santa Cruz League championship this season — into the semifinals for the fourth straight season. The Guards will take on No. 1-seeded Orange Lutheran at 7:30 p.m. today in a semifinal game at Concordia College in Irvine.

The Guards will likely have their hands full with the Lancers (23-6), who finished second in the Trinity League behind powerhouse Mater Dei. Orange Lutheran has sliced its way through the playoffs, getting wins against Los Altos, 79-31, Northview, 68-31, and Alemany, 61-47. In addition to outscoring their opponents, 208-100, the Lancers are averaging 68 points a game in the postseason.

The Guards definitely showed some resiliency against Antelope Valley (24-6), the Golden League champion. Trailing heading into the fourth quarter, Napier scored nine of her 23 points in the final stanza and Smith tallied seven of her 17 in the frame.

"We do our best to keep everyone positive, and we tried to set a good tone for that fourth quarter," Napier said of the roles of herself and Smith. "But it was all a team effort. We had a lot of people who were able to step up, and that's why we won. It wasn't just the two of us, but everyone."

The Lopes began the game with a fine display of outside shooting, coupled with a solid inside game. The Bell-Jeff pressure defense didn't seem to affect Antelope Valley, as the Guards had trouble stopping their opponent's transition game, which led to some easy lay-ups.

At the end of one quarter, Bell-Jeff trailed, 24-15.

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