BURBANK — The Bellarmine-Jefferson High basketball team isn’t used to playing catch-up in the Santa Cruz League.
The Guards also are not accustomed to being the No. 2 team in the league standings and not capturing a league championship, something they have accomplished for five straight years,
But this season’s perspective changed for Bell-Jeff on Tuesday, when it fell in a league game to host St. Anthony. It was the Guards’ first league defeat since 2008, snapping the squad’s 29-game league winning streak.
Bell-Jeff looked to bounce back Thursday when it hosted St. Matthias in a league contest. The Guards were able to storm back in a big way, shutting out the Victorians for the first two quarters and coasting to an easy 48-18 home victory.
“It was really important for us to be able to come back and win a game like this after Tuesday,” said first-year coach Stan Delus, whose squad fall to St. Anthony, 72-36. “We lost a little confidence after that loss. We just needed a good performance to let ourselves know we’re still a good team.”
It was a combination of solid Bell-Jeff (10-6,4-1 in league) defense and poor shooting by St. Matthias (6-14, 0-5) that enabled the Guards to jump out to an early lead and keep the Victorians off the scoreboard in the first half.
Playing well on both ends of the floor for the Guards was four-year player Tiffany Kho. The senior had a game-high 21 points. But her worth on the defensive was even more invaluable for the Guards, as she had 12 steals,
With Kho leading the charge, Bell-Jeff helped force 33 turnovers in the game.
“We needed to set our minds right after our last loss and I think we did a pretty good job doing that,” Kho said. “We could have been a little better on defense, but we’re still improving.”
Doing her share of damage down low for Bell-Jeff was 6-foot-4 sophomore Anastasia Tsybaeva. Her length created problems for the Victorians, as the sophomore had 18 points to go along with 16 rebounds and six blocks.
Things were a little shaky for both teams in the early minutes of the game. The squads combined to convert just one of their first 20 shots from the field in the first quarter. However, whereas the Guards were able to break out of their shooting slump, the Victorians were not.
St. Matthias missed all of its nine shots in the opening stanza and also missed two free-throw attempts. As a result, the Guards were able to jump out to a 10-0 lead after one.
“After last Tuesday, we wanted to come out and create a defensive tempo,” Delus said. “We wanted to make sure we had the right people in the right spots and I think we did a good job at doing that.”
The shooting woes for St. Matthias continued in the second quarter when it missed all 10 of its shots. Kho poured in 10 points in the second and the Guards went into halftime with a comfortable 20-0 advantage.
After missing their first 19 shot attempts, the Victorians finally snapped the dry spell when Laura Diaz sank a basket with 6:07 remaining in the third. However, by that time, Bell-Jeff had built a 34-2 lead and increased it to 38-2 before St. Matthias converted its second basket.
Although the Victorians played better in the third quarter, scoring nine points, the Guards took a 42-9 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Bell-Jeff received eight rebounds and three blocks from senior Miriah Bankhead.