Talk about wasting no time to build a winning tradition. Rancho Bernardo High's girls' basketball team, in its first season ever, rolled past visiting La Jolla, 58-31, to advance to the Division III San Diego Section semifinals Thursday.
The third-seeded Broncos, who never trailed past 4:37 of the first quarter, improved to 18-5 while eliminating the Vikings (7-11). They advanced to face second-seeded Kearny on Tuesday. Rancho Bernardo certainly didn't look like a first-year taam, and sophomore guard Robin Blalock, who scored a game-high 19 points, had an explanation.
"It's not like out of the blue we formed up," said Blalock, who averages 18 points and helped lead the Broncos to a second-place finish (10-4) in the Avocado League. "We have a youth league. A lot of us have played together before. But I was skeptical before the season. I didn't know what we were going to have."
All five Bronco starters went to Mt. Carmel a year ago. Blalock was part of a Sundevils junior varsity team that finished second in the Palomar League and lost just three games all season. Rancho Bernardo's coach, Peggy Brose, also came over from Mt. Carmel. Maybe Rancho Bernardo, which wears blue, should be called the Blue Devils.
"We're not a team full of inexperienced players," Brose said. "Most of them have played since third grade. But they've worked hard. Hey, I'll take 18-5."
La Jolla owned a 6-2 lead in the first quarter as Leah Williams (14 points, four blocked shots) hit a layup and a pair of jump shots. But then the Vikings committed 10 turnovers under the pressure of a trapping Bronco defense. Rancho Bernardo went on a 16-0 run and led at halftime, 31-14.
The damage could have been worse had Florine Kemp, who scored eight of the Broncos' first 12 points, not picked up her third foul with 2:12 left in the period. Kemp had to leave the game and didn't return until the second half. By then she had cooled off.
The junior guard had just completed a three-point play after she went coast-to-coast for a layup and was fouled. Rancho Bernardo didn't seem to need Kemp after that as five other players scored, including Blalock, who had nine at halftime.
Sophomore forward Jessica Porter and junior center Molly Maloney (15 points) also controlled the inside for the Broncos, picking up several offensive rebounds and forcing the Vikings to take several low-percentage shots. La Jolla never did adjust to Rancho Bernardo's aggressive man-to-man defense.