Girls’ basketball advances to second round of playoffs with blowout win over San Marino

Henry Vogel

The girls’ basketball team advanced to the second round of the CIF Playoffs with a 60-24 victory over San Marino Thursday night in the first round of the tournament. The Wolverines, who are seeded second in the Division 4-AA bracket, dominated the Titans, seeded 16th, with their signature high-pressure defense.

The girls outmatched San Marino with their superior height, speed and shooting, and as is the case with most first round games for No. 2 seeds, the win came without much resistance.

After jumping out to a 10-3 lead early in the first quarter, it became clear that winning was not going to be a problem. Instead, the team focused on perfecting areas of the game it had worked on in practice that week. Though not as relevant in a blowout win like this one, boxing out is something the girls will need to do in more competitive games down the road to negate any height disadvantages.

“Our whole focus this week was boxing out, and I feel we did a pretty good job of that,” Head Coach Melissa Hearlihy said. “It got a little bit sloppy in the second half.”

The large margin of victory meant that Hearlihy was able to rotate subs into the game early and often. In the final minutes, she even cleared the bench, playing reserves that usually do not have a spot in the rotation during close games. In addition to giving these bench players more practice and playoff experience, it gave the starters ample opportunities to rest.

In the second round, the girls will face Laguna Beach. Though seeded 15th out of the 23 teams in Division 4-AA, Laguna Beach received a first round bye, meaning the players will be fully practiced and energized for the game against Harvard-Westlake Saturday.

For the Wolverines, that game is only two days away, so the girls will benefit from the added rest they earned during the easy win in the first round. This will give them a better chance of being equally rested in the matchup against Laguna Beach.

The tune-up game against San Marino revealed how dominant the Harvard-Westlake defense can be. There were periods where the opposing players could not get a shot off, resulting in multiple shot clock violations and other turnovers.

After picking up full-court with man-to-man pressure, the nearest defender not on the ball would quickly rush over to double-team and trap the ballhandler when she crossed half-court. Often times this would result in a steal and easy basket at the other end, but even if the opposing guard managed to escape the trap, the secondary layer, known as the help defense, was right there to pick up the ball.

“We love to play defense,” Hearlihy said. “It keeps up the intensity of the game, and we’re going to keep pushing forward towards [more transition offense from defense]. If we have to set up we will, but transition is the direction we’re going.”

With transition offense and second-chance points from offensive rebounds producing frequent baskets, almost everyone on the team recorded at least one point. Jayla Ruffus-Milner ’18 led the way with 15 points followed by Lauren Lapesarde ’17 with 12 points.