Battling to secure its fifth straight league championship, Bell-Jeff traveled to Long Beach Tuesday evening for the rematch. Although the Guards suffered through a slow start and had to hold off the Saints in the fourth quarter, they were able to continue their league reign with a 46-37 victory.
It was the 36th straight league win for Bell-Jeff (19-7, 7-0 in league), which is ranked No. 8 in CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA. The last league loss the Guards suffered was on Jan. 12, 2008 when it fell to St. Mary's Academy, 59-54. The two teams shared the league championship that season.
With just one league game left and a two-game cushion on St. Anthony (13-11, 5-2) — No. 11 in Division IV-AA — the Guards will again be the league's No. 1 seed for the playoffs, which are set to begin next week.
Bell-Jeff has a chance to finish its fourth straight league season undefeated when it travels to take on host St. Matthias at 7 p.m. Thursday. In the teams' last meeting, the Guards easily defeated the Victorians, 93-15.
For the Bell-Jeff seniors who have been with the program for four years, ending with a fourth straight league crown was of the utmost importance.
"It was very important for all of the team, especially the seniors," Bell-Jeff senior Rishonda Napier said. "We have a lot of seniors on this team and we wanted to make sure that we went out the right way when it came to league."
Napier, who has been nominated for a McDonald's All-American award this season, gave her squad a spark on offense. She led all scorers with 27 points. Teammate Jasmine Smith, a senior, chipped in 11 points.
Unfortunately for Bell-Jeff, just three players combined for the team's other eight points.
The first time the Saints and Guards hooked up was Jan 19 at Bell-Jeff and the Guards were able to survive, 64-60, in a contest that was decided in the final seconds.
Napier said she expected a hard-fought battle on the Saints' home floor.