The next stop for Bella Vista’s girls varsity basketball team is the University of the Pacific for the semifinals of the Division II playoffs as the Broncos defeated twelfth-seeded Benicia 72-64 Thursday at Bella Vista High School.
Bella Vista easily defeated thirteenth-seeded Central Valley Tuesday 64-32 during the first round of the playoffs. However, the Broncos will face their toughest challenge yet as their next opponent is the top-seeded St. Mary’s Rams.
The Broncos held the lead for most of the game, but head coach Gwyn Jackson said the team was not relaxed early in the game and needed to slow down the pace as the game progressed.
“We were rushing too much and we weren’t relaxed,” Jackson said. “When we were more relaxed, we started putting the ball inside more and our talent just kind of took over from there.”
Senior guard Kelly Logue also agreed the team needed to slow down the pace during the early stages of the game and the team started to use their size to their advantage against the smaller Benicia players.
“We were really forcing things early on and then when we slowed things down, we got into the post and because we’re taller than them, it worked,” Logue said. “Getting to the line helped a lot also, especially making our free throws, that really helped a lot.”
Bella Vista ended the regular season undefeated in league play (10-0) and 21-5 overall and have won their last eight games.
However, Bella Vista’s next opponent, St. Mary’s, has been nothing but dominant throughout the entire season and postseason. St. Mary’s, also going undefeated (10-0) and 23-2 overall, has won 21 straight games since Dec. 22. The Rams earned two landslide victories so far in the playoffs shutting down sixteenth-seeded Los Banos 97-21 and eighth-seeded Florin 77-32.
Jackson said her team will need to work on performing aggressive defense against this tough St. Mary’s team.
“Between now and Wednesday, I really need to prepare them for that aggressive defense,” Jackson said.
The team will be practicing against the boy’s junior varsity team and Logue said that will help prepare them for St. Mary’s.
“Playing against the boys will really help bring up our game,” Logue said. “When we go up against St. Mary’s we’ll be better prepared and that will be a game to watch.”
Fortunately for Bella Vista, this win over Benicia gives them an automatic bid for the State Championships whether the Broncos win or lose against St. Mary’s. Jackson believes this was a huge win for her team and it has proven a lot for her Broncos.
“Anytime you get to go to UOP and get to a big venue, it’s always great for the kids. It’s exciting for them to go play at UOP,” Jackson said. “It means the fourth seed we got, we earned it. We won our first two games and we proved that we deserve to play at home and we deserve to be seeded number four."
“It’s also great for our seniors to continue on and that their season’s not over. It’s fun and important for them too.”
For Logue, this was a big win for her as well, but she said the coming stages of the playoffs will be emotional for her being a senior with her last opportunity to play for her Bella Vista team.
“It’s really exciting advancing to UOP our second year in a row, especially for us seniors since it’s our last chance,” Logue said. “This is the last time we’ll play on this home court, so it’s kind of emotional. This is our final chance to show what we’ve got and what we can do.”