"We are very powerful when we put all the pieces together."
Bell-Jeff (11-6) took an early lead by establishing itself down low. The Guards, ranked eighth in CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA, got out to an 18-11 edge at the end of the first quarter by scoring 16 points in the paint, 10 coming on easy putbacks.
"Our post players definitely set the tone offensively, they got offensive rebounds and layups," said Bell-Jeff's Rishonda Napier, who had a game-high 19 points, six rebounds and three steals. "They were hitting all their shots and that really allowed us to expand and work inside to the outside."
The second quarter opened with a 7-3 run from Bell-Jeff, capped with a Napier three-pointer to give the Guards a 25-14 lead with 5:26 left in the half. Ventura (14-3) called a timeout and regrouped to cut the lead to 25-18, but Napier hit another three off a Cougars turnover to put her team back up, 30-18, with 1:30 to go.
Napier started out slow with just two points in the first quarter, but scored 14 of her 19 points in the second and third quarters.
"I was missing to begin with, but my teammates kept encouraging me and kept telling me to keep my head up and keep shooting and eventually they started to fall," she said.
Ventura, ranked third in Division II-AA, managed to cut the deficit back down to 32-24 with a 6-2 run that stretched into the third quarter. Bell-Jeff's Jasmine Smith snapped the streak by grabbing an offensive rebound and laying it in while drawing contact. Smith, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, hit the free throw on the and-one opportunity to put the Guards up, 35-24.