Guards survive state opener, 79-65

BELLARMINE-JEFFESRON HIGH — The Bellarmine- Jefferson High girls’ basketball team found itself in an unfamiliar situation Tuesday in the CIF State Basketball Division V Championships.

The Guards, who haven’t played many games in which they had such a slim lead so late, had just a one-point advantage going into the fourth quarter against Sierra Canyon, something the team hadn’t experienced throughout the postseason.

However, a big run to begin the fourth quarter and a huge effort from Margeaux Gupilan helped the Guards earn a 79-65 victory at home.

“The name of the game is survive and advance in the state tournament,” said Bell-Jeff Coach Bryan Camacho, whose team improved to 31-1 “We just played sloppy and our effort .wasn’t there on defense.”

Surviving means the Guards, the No. 1 seed, will get to play at home at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Southern California regional semifinals.

They will take on No. 5 Fresno Christian (23-5) from the Central Section. The Eagles defeated Escondido Christian Life Academy, 58-47, Tuesday in their opening tournament game.

“We are going to have to play a lot better if we want to make it to Sacramento,” Camacho said.

Bell-Jeff needs two more wins to earn a spot in the state championship March 20 at Arco Arena.

Gupilan, a junior, stepped up to score a season-high 27 points — including four three-pointers — to power the Guards. In the first quarter, she scored 12 points and freshman teammate Rishonda Napier added nine for the team’s only points of the stanza.

Napier finished with 20 points and senior Shelley Gupilan added 18 points.

The Guards, who captured their first CIF Southern Section Division VA championship in 12 years Saturday, sputtered at times in the first three quarters.

Bell-Jeff found itself trailing, 55-51, with 1:32 left in the third quarter before going on a 5-0 run to take a 56-55 lead heading into the fourth.

The Guards embarked on a 13-0 run during the opening 3:08 of the fourth quarter to create a little breathing room, 70-55.

The Trailblazers (25-5) converted just two of their 12 shots in the fourth quarter.

“I was concerned going into this game,” Camacho said. “I give a lot of credit to Sierra Canyon; they played fearless and they made us work.”

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