It was a case of too much quickness and a punishing defense as the St. Vincent Lady Mustangs rolled past host Emery, 58-27, in the first round of Division V playoffs in the North Coast Section on Wednesday.
The Lady Mustangs continued to play well after capturing the North Central League II Tournament title last week. This time it was their defense that completely discouraged the Emery Lady Spartans and top scorer Antuanisha Wright from the opening tap. Wright came into the game with a Division V-leading 18.8 scoring average, but the tight-switching defense by St. Vincent coach Jim Fagundes' squad shut down her effectiveness and limited her to no field goals in the second half.
"We saw her play a couple of times at the Urban Tournament at Kezar," explained Fagundes. "All of our players were looking for her, and were willing to help."
St. Vincent out scored the Bay Counties General champions, 19-3, in the very lopsided final quarter. Many times in the late going, quick passing led to easy transition baskets by streaking guards Rebecca Dodele and Maddie Perry.
The Lady Mustangs didn't hesitate swinging into their offense on the other end as they quickly hoisted a barrage of 3-point attempts after Dodele nailed her first shot from distance to open the game.
St. Vincent had a commanding 26-15 lead at halftime with Wright accounting for 11 points as the game's volume shooter.
Mustang guard Grace Jennings turned in a strong performance on both ends of the court, and left her fingerprints on the convincing victory by her team. Jennings had ninbe points at halftime, and added a couple of 3-point shots down the stretch to finish with a team high 15 points. Jennings also took her turn on Wright as both teams swung into a transition game even though she appeared to be winded at times during the first half.
"I have been a little sick lately, but I am getting better," she explained afterward. "We switch everything on defense, but it all starts with Rebecca (Dodele), who had the main assignment of stopping Wright. All of our guards took a turn on her."
The Lady Mustangs took all of the fight out of Emery after intermission with a very balanced attack and additional pinching defense. Four St. Vincent starters reached double figures, backing the work of Jennings. Dodele finished with 14 points, while smooth working front liners Ursyla Baumgarten and Jacalyn Murphy had 23 points between them.
Baumgarten had another solid effort with eight rebounds and often settled for assists as St. Vincent routinely beat the Lady Spartans down the floor. The high-scoring junior has averaged over 15 points per game this season.
The playoff task gets more challenging on Saturday night when the Lady Mustangs travel to San Anselmo to meet the strong third seeded San Domenico team of veteran coach Mike Fulton. Fulton won two Division V state championships while coaching at Branson.
San Domenico demolished the Athenian School from Danville, 46-16, in the first round.
"They only have six players, but the team is very well coached," noted Fagundes, "We lost to them by two points earlier in the season. Ursyla had a good look at a 3-point shot at the end, but missed. If we could win that one, it would guarantee a shot at the Nor-Cal playoffs."