L.A. Windward High girls’ basketball Coach Steve Smith admits he
doesn’t know a great deal about Bellarmine-Jefferson. But what little
he does know has left the coach a little apprehensive.
“I know the Sunshine League Bell-Jeff plays in is tougher than
[the Liberty] League],” Smith said. “I also know they are going to be
big, fast and they are very talented.
“I am just hoping we are going to be able to stay with them and
make a game out of it.”
Although Smith might be underestimating his team a little, the
Wildcats will get to know the Guards tonight. Windward will be the
home team when the squads clash at 7:30 in a CIF Southern Section
Division IV semifinal game at Brentwood High.
It is the first semifinal appearance for Bell-Jeff (22-4) since
1997, when Jaclyn Johnson helped lead the Guards to a CIF
championship -- the only title in any sport in school history.
Whereas Smith is likely collecting information about Bell-Jeff,
Guards’ Coach Bryan Camacho has done his homework on the Wildcats
“We have a couple of tapes on them and we know what to expect,”
“They have a couple of good freshmen who can shoot and a junior
who plays pretty well in the post. We also know they play tight
defense with a good match-up zone.”
The game will be a rematch of last year’s second-round playoff
contest in which Windward defeated Bell-Jeff, 42-32.
The Guards earned a trip to the semifinals with a 69-34 trouncing
Wednesday against Downey Calvary Chapel. Jennae Peoples scored 19
points to lead the host Guards.
It’s no secret Peoples is Bell-Jeff’s main weapon. The senior
point guard came into the playoffs averaging 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game. She has been able to elevate her
game in the postseason, as she has scored 56 points a game and is
averaging 18.6 points a contest.
Bell-Jeff -- the No. 2 seed -- earned a trip to the postseason by
finishing second in the Sunshine League behind L.A. Marlborough.
Marlborough is still alive in the playoffs and is competing in the
Windward defeated Huntington Beach Brethren Christian, 56-33,
Wednesday in the quarterfinals.
The Wildcats -- the No. 3 seed -- are the Liberty League
champions. The team’s only two losses were nonleague setbacks to
Marlborough and Santa Monica St. Monica.
“I think we were lucky to get to some teams early in the season
and get some good wins,” Smith said.
Windward has talented players who are capable of stepping it up in
any given game. Junior Ali Landes -- who had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the win against host Brethren Christian -- is an athletic
player who is not shy about shooting from long range.
Two other threats are freshmen Erica Latimer and Hailey Dunham.