BURBANK — Balanced scoring on one end and relentless defense on the other resulted in a relatively easy win for the Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' basketball team in a consolation game of the 2011 West Coast Holiday Festival.
Rishonda Napier led the way for the Guards, as her 14 first-half points single-handedly matched the output of the Monroe Vikings, who struggled against the Bell-Jeff defense all night in a 64-30 victory for the host Guards.
Napier, one of five seniors on the squad, is looking to repeat last season's success under second-year Coach Jaclyn Johnson's tutelage. The Guards, however, have stumbled out to eight wins in 14 games.
"We've really only been together four games as a team," Johnson said. "It's all about the end of February, so we have a long ways to go."
In the meantime, the team's final game of December saw little resistance from the Mustangs, who were missing two starters. After two quarters of play, the Guards made 12 of 26 field-goal attempts, while holding Monroe to five-of-26 shooting to take a 20-point halftime lead.
Both teams struggled from the field early. Eventually, the Guards heated up and went on an 18-0 run that extended a 6-4 temporarily tightly contested game to a 24-4 lead midway through the second quarter.
The defense didn't let up in the third quarter, holding the Mustangs to three points while pulling away with a 50-17 advantage with eight minutes remaining.
"Our defensive intensity is what we work on," Johnson said. "We play against teams that can score, so we need to cut into what they can do."
For the game, the Guards held the Mustangs to nine field goals. Co-Captains Ayisat Afolabi and Jecenia Trinidad accounted for 25 of the team's 30 points.
"We had good looks, just couldn't make our shots," Mustangs Coach Quincy Brooks said. "They're a really tough team as it is. When the ball doesn't go down, it makes it almost impossible."
Napier finished with a game-high 18 points on four three-pointers and was complemented well by Jasmine Smith's 10 and Kiah Jones' nine. Karina Moreno added eight points.
"We have a target, and we're on our way," said Johnson, who coached the Guards to an undefeated league campaign last season and reached the semifinals of the CIF Division 3-A playoffs. "We're off to a late start, but the goal is still there."
Bell-Jeff will begin Santa Fe League play Jan. 10 at home against St. Genevieve.