BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH — The buzz around Tuesday’s girls’ basketball game between Bellarmine-Jefferson High and Montclair Prep was it could possibly be a prelude to the CIF Southern Section Division VA championship contest in March.
With fine ballhandlers, accomplished shooters and solid defensive play from both squads, the championship game of the Bell-Jeff Holiday Classic looked to be a premier matchup.
However, all the hype didn’t do this game justice. The Guards and Mounties battled, scraped and run their way to a thrilling finish, as Montclair Prep was able to come on in the fourth quarter to claim a 63-62 victory.
“That is what championship basketball is all about,” Bell-Jeff Coach Bryan Camacho said. “We knew it was going to be a battle, and that’s exactly what it was.”
The Mounties (12-1), which only suited up seven players, overcame adversity in the second half. Junior starter Chantel Dooley had to sit for a long stretch after picking up her fourth foul with 3:34 left in the third quarter.
The team was also dealt a blow when sophomore starter Kimberly Scamman had to be carried off the floor with 5:36 left in the game with an injured knee.
Despite the hardships, Montclair Prep outscored Bell-Jeff, 18-14, in the fourth quarter.
The Mounties were paced by sophomore Lindsay Anderson, who poured in a game-high 20 points.
“We don’t have a lot of players on our bench, so we know we’re probably going to have to play a lot of minutes,” said Dooley, who was voted the tournament’s most valuable player.
Bell-Jeff’s Margeaux Gupilan was named to the all-tournament team.
The Guards (12-2) were paced by junior Julia Tani, who had 19 points to go along with four steals.
The Guards held a 48-45 lead going into the fourth quarter, but the Mounties quickly made up the deficit and took the lead, 51-50, with just over four minutes remaining.
The teams played it close throughout the rest of the quarter. Milking a 62-61 lead, Tani sank one of two free throws to tie it at 62 with 33.4 seconds left.
However, Montclair Prep’s Stephanie Scamman sank a free throw with 7.2 seconds left to put her team up by one.
The Guards had a chance on their final possession, however Tani lost control of the ball and Dooley pounced on it as the buzzer sounded.
“I just don’t think we matched [Montclair Prep] in intensity tonight,” Camacho said. “I gave them a lot of credit; they played a very good game.”