BURBANK — There was little question as to who was the best scorer on the court when the visiting Pasadena Poly and Bellarmine-Jefferson high girls’ basketball teams met in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs Saturday evening.
The same could be said about the teams, also though, as the well-balanced Guards survived a 36-point effort from state scoring phenom Michelle Miller of Poly in winning, 68-54.
The victory propels the No. 6-seeded Santa Cruz League champion Guards (22-7) into Wednesday’s divisional quarterfinals at No. 3-seeded Mission League champion Chaminade (24-4) at 7 p.m.
"[Miller] got hers. The others who were the next leaders scoring-wise couldn’t do anything,” Bell-Jeff Coach Jaclyn Johnson said, “and that was the difference.”
After Miller, who moved into fifth place all-time in the state-career scoring list with 3, 331 points, Poly’s next two scorers, Courtney Foster and Kaitlyn Olah, combined for 14 points.
On the other hand, the Guards boasted three players in double figures, with San Jose State-committed senior forward Jasmine Smith leading the way with 23 points and 21 rebounds.
“Coach told me before the game that they really needed me tonight,” the 6-foot Smith said. “They needed me to clean up rebounds and to make defense stops.”
Poly (22-5) trailed, 53-43, to start the fourth, but Bell-Jeff surged out of the quarterly break with a 7-2 run fueled by four points from Smith, whose steal created a fast-break bucket on her first attempt that was followed by an offensive putback for her second score.
The Panthers then made their final stand and eventually pulled within 60-48 on a jumper from the Princeton-bound Miller with 2:34 left.
Yet, Bell-Jeff countered with an 8-2 run, highlighted by a three-pointer from Rishonda Napier that answered Miller’s basket, that clinched the game, 68-50, with 29.7 seconds remaining.
“This win is big for us going forward,” Smith said. “We respect Poly, but we know that we have even tougher teams waiting for us.”
The first half started out well for the Guards, who scored the first 10 points of the game and led, 40-24.
The Guards took a 19-8 lead on a layup from Kiah Jones, who was assisted by Tiffany Kho, with 1:59 remaining in the first quarter.
Poly responded with a mini 5-0 spurt capped by a three-pointer from Foster off an assist by freshman Kiki Yang at the 6:46 point in the second as the Panthers pulled within 19-13.
Right after the field goal, Johnson reinserted Napier and Smith and the Guards reasserted their authority with a 10-4 run to go up, 29-17, with 3:44 remaining in the half after a five-footer from Karina Moreno.
The turning point of the half, however, may have taken place after the Panthers pulled within 29-20 on a three-pointer from Miller.
Poly followed the basket by missing a two-footer on its next offensive series.
The blown point-blank shot led to a five-point swing, as Napier drained a three-pointer with 2:17 left as Bell-Jeff went back up by double-digits at 32-20.
“You know what, that girl is something special,” Johnson said of Miller. “We did a great job defensively, a phenomenal job defensively, but she never stopped.”
Napier added 14 points and two steals and Kho connected on four of five shots for 10 points.