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Bell-Jeff caught off guard

Erik Boal

Of all the possible scenarios that played out in Bryan Camacho’s mind

the night before, it was probably the most unlikely one.

After six long years in between appearances in the CIF Southern

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Section girls’ basketball final, and after surviving a grueling

27-game schedule just to get there, the Bellarmine-Jefferson coach

could’ve never fathomed it would unfold like it did.

That’s because the Guards’ third-year coach knew his team -- the

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division’s No. 2 seed -- could play with fourth-seeded Westlake

Village Oaks Christian in Saturday’s Division IVA final at the Long

Beach Pyramid.

And for the final three quarters, Bell-Jeff did.

But the Guards made only two of their first 13 shots to spot the

Lions a 14-point lead after one quarter, and despite a valiant effort

in the second half -- trimming the deficit to four in the third

quarter and five in the fourth -- their comeback fell short, as Oaks

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Christian held on to win the program’s first title, 53-44.

After falling in the Division VA semifinals in 2001 and the

Division IVA semifinals last year, Oaks Christian (22-6) won a

championship in only the school’s third year of existence. Bell-Jeff

(23-5) -- which was bidding to win the program’s second title after

defeating Cerritos Valley Christian, 47-45, in the Division IVA final

in 1997 -- fell to 1-2 in championship games, including a 66-52 loss

to Cerritos Valley Christian in the Division IVA title contest in

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1993.

“We couldn’t hit any shots and we just came up short,” said

Camacho, whose squad made only 18 of 62 (29%) field-goal attempts,

including a stretch of 10 straight misses in the first quarter.

“We came out with some early jitters and we were forced to play

catch up the rest of the way. I knew we’d make a run and I knew we’d

come back, but the shots just wouldn’t fall [when we needed them

to].”

Bell-Jeff faced its largest deficit at 33-13 with 1:33 left in the second quarter, but Jennae Peoples and Kelly Van Dyke both hit

three-pointers in the final 75 seconds to give the Guards -- who had

their eight-game win streak halted -- some momentum entering the

second half.

After Lion forward Cherhara Shields (19 points, 11 rebounds)

scored the opening basket of the third, Camacho’s squad went on a

12-0 run, holding Oaks Christian -- which missed six straight shots

and turned the ball over five times -- without a point for 7:13.

But even though the Guards had a number of chances to get closer

than 37-33, they endured a frustrating scoreless stretch of 4:22,

allowing Oaks Christian to rebuild its lead to 10.

“We got it down to four and we had a couple good looks, but we

missed a couple layups and we didn’t capitalize on our

opportunities,” Camacho said.

“We got them out of their sets and we disrupted their tempo, but

[after we closed it to 37-33], the scoreboard just didn’t seem to

move for a while. We didn’t execute and we didn’t finish.”

Peoples (22 points, 14 rebounds, four assists) and Julie Van Dyke

(six points) helped Bell-Jeff make one last push, closing the gap to

43-38 with 4:12 left, but the Lions responded with a 10-0 run during

the next three minutes, during which the Guards missed nine straight

shots and turned it over twice.

“I knew they’d make a run, but I just didn’t think they’d get that

close because we had such a big lead,” said Oaks Christian Coach Don

McMaster, whose squad shot 24 of 52 (46.2%), including seven of 13 in

the fourth.

“They’re a talented team and they didn’t get [to the final]

because they couldn’t play, but our seniors kept their poise and I

think it was the experience factor that helped us.”

Said Peoples: “We let them take us out of our game and we didn’t

want it as much as they did. If we had grabbed one more big rebound

or made one more big shot, it might have been different. But they got

the rebounds and they made the shots and that’s why they won.”

*--*

BOX SCORE

*--*

*--*

Oaks Christian 18 17 4 14 -- 53

Bell-Jeff 4 17 12 11 -- 44

*--*

*--*

OAKS CHRISTIAN

Shields 19 and 11 rebounds, McDaniel 12, 8 rebounds and 4 steals, McKinney 8, Berman 6, 5 assists and 3 blocks, Rutherford 4 and 6 assists, Butts 2, Enciso 2. * Three-pointers: McDaniel 2

BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON

Peoples 22, 14 rebounds and 4 assists, Ju. Van Dyke 6, Hobbs 5, T. Reyes 4, K. Van Dyke 3, Morgan 2 and 8 rebounds, Napolitano 2. * Three-pointers: Peoples 2, Ju. Van Dyke 2, K. Van Dyke

*--*


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