YOU ARE HERE: Burbank HomeCollections

Guards capture another title

Girls' basketball: Bell-Jeff's 46-37 win against St. Anthony gives Guards fifth straight crown, 36th straight league win.

February 07, 2012|BY JEFF TULLY,

LONG BEACH — The Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' basketball team shared a Santa Cruz championship in 2008. It was the program's first title in a decade.

The next three seasons would see the Guards breeze to a trio of league crowns, as Bell-Jeff was rarely pushed by opponents in league competition.

But this season, St. Anthony — chalk full of talented players — was determined to dethrone the Guards. That almost happened three weeks ago when the Saints were in the game late, but lost to the host Guards by four points.


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.

Burbank Leader Articles Burbank Leader Articles