BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH — The Santa Cruz League championship was already theirs.
For the Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls’ basketball team, the season finale was simply about completing an undefeated conference season, and going into the postseason with momentum.
St. Matthias stood in the way of the Guards’ perfect run in league play, but it wasn’t much of a fight, as Bell-Jeff won, 79-22, Thursday night at Bell-Jeff.
“We feel accomplished [winning the league],” said Bell-Jeff senior guard Layana White, who finished with 17 points. “We’re prepared and ready for playoffs.”
White played a big part in the first quarter where the Guards ended the frame with 30-6 advantage, powered by a 13-0 run midway through.
First-year Bell-Jeff Coach Jaclyn Johnson ran a full-court press that caused 21 first-quarter turnovers from the Victorians, which resulted in St. Matthias shooting just two field goals while the Guards shot a solid 13 for 26.
The Guards (20-6, 8-0 in league) went away from the full-court press after the first period, and enjoyed a comfortable lead that would suffice until the end of the contest.
“We wanted to practice some things that we need to work on, but also keep sportsmanship in mind,” said Johnson, a former Bell-Jeff standout. “It’s hard to tell the girls to not do what they are used to doing.”
St. Matthias (3-19, 0-8) trailed throughout and couldn’t stop the Guards from cruising to their second 50-point victory at their expense.
Bell-Jeff defeated all of its league opponents by double-digits. St. Anthony came the closest to getting a win, losing, 50-46, on Feb. 3.
Johnson, who is also the school’s athletic director, guided the Guards to their fourth straight Santa Cruz League title after taking over for former coach Bryan Camacho.
“When they asked me, [and] it was hard to say no with me being a Bell-Jeff alumni,” Johnson said about taking the position.
“It’s been an up and down season, but overall it’s been a smooth transition,” White said of the coaching change.
Against the Victorians, the Guards received balanced scoring from their starters. Johnece Miller matched White’s 17, Janelle Gabb added 12 and Tiffany Kho was also in double-figures with 11. Clarissa Larios added nine.
St. Matthias’ Sandra Romero had a team-high seven.
“We’re in Division III, now so we wanted to build some momentum, because it’s going to be tough,” said Johnson of the playoffs, which begin next week.