By SHEL SEGAL
SOUTH EL MONTE – The Keppel girls basketball team went on a 16-0 second-quarter run and defeated South Pasadena 58-39 on Saturday night in the second round of the Sixth Annual South El Monte/Gary Houston Invitational at South El Monte High School. This comes after the Aztecs downed Garfield 57-27 on Friday night in the tournament’s opening round.
Alyssa Lee led the way for Keppel with a team-high 14 points. Erika Sato scored 12 points and Catherine Dea added nine in the win.
Lee said the Aztecs were able to score points because they were talking with one another.
“Our communication was good,” she said. “We weren’t really communicating the first half. But in the second half we pulled through. We were executing our plays. That’s what really worked for us.”
Teammate Jocelyn Song added she thought the team played well all around.
“We hit our shots and I think we contained well on defense,” she said.
And what can the team improve on?
“For sure, rebounding and our press break,” Lee said.
Add Song: “In the beginning, we were kind of slow because we didn’t have as many rebounds. I also think we could make more of our shots, so we’ll work on that.”
Sato said she liked how the Aztecs performed out there on the court.
“We put it together as a team,” she said. “We were in sync and we were on fire. We.” just kept playing as a team. I think we need to be more verbal and talk as a team. We can get better by passing more.”
Keppel coach Jose Herrera said the team is off to a good start despite not being up to full strength.
“Our bench is limited,” he said. “We have a lot of injuries, a lot of girls out sick. We don’t have a big roster. Out of our 13, we had nine available.”
He added despite a slow first quarter where Keppel was outscored 8-5, the Aztecs were able to turn the game around quickly.
“They stepped it up,” Herrera said. “I was kind of worried in the first quarter when my best defender – Jocelyn Song – picked up her second foul. … But she was able to make some key plays in the first half that helped us build the lead.”
He also said while the Aztecs missed a good number of shots, they got the ball to fall when they needed to.
“Those girls were able to hit those shots when they were tired, when it really counted,” Herrera said. “That’s all I can ask.”
Keppel built a 26-13 lead by halftime and put the game away with a 10-0 run midway through the fourth quarter.
Juliana Tom led South Pasadena with a game-high 16 points. The Tigers’ coach, Cody Masden, said the loss gives his team an idea on what the players need to work on.
“I think we got to focus on little things, like boxing out, being patient on offense, patient on defense and minimizing turnovers,” he said.
He added South Pasadena did many things well against Keppel.
“We ran a lot of our sets really well,” Masden said. “We pushed the ball, especially in the first quarter, and I was really happy with our second team.”
Keppel resumes tournament play at 7 p.m. on Wednesday as it takes on Price.