By SHEL SEGAL
MONTEBELLO – Sally Smith opened the game by nailing a 3-pointer and the Keppel girls basketball team cruised to a 73-37 Almont League victory over host Montebello on Tuesday night. Smith and Jocelyn Song both finished with 11 points as Alyssa Lee led Keppel (19-5, 7-0 AL) with 19 points.
Smith said she liked the way Keppel started playing hard from the opening tipoff.
“I think we just started out with a lot of momentum,” she said. “Once we started scoring, we were hitting all our shots. A few turnovers, but our defense was good.”
But she was quick to point out areas where the team needs to start improving immediately.
“I think we need to talk more on defense,” Smith said. “We’re a lot smaller than a lot of teams. Rebounding’s really hard. We need to be more consistent. And fewer turnovers would be nice.”
Keppel coach Jose Herrera said while he was pleased to finish on top, he knows the Aztecs need to improve their play, especially with the postseason approaching.
“Any time we can get a win, I’m always happy,” he said. “I’m still not satisfied because I know we could have done a lot of things better. Our rebounding, I had to get on them throughout the whole game. It’s been a common thing. That’s been one of our flaws right there. We have to be able to crash those boards and box out and rebound.”
He added while the Aztecs struggled in the third quarter, being outscored 15-8, he was pleased how they were able to learn quickly from what was going wrong and play out the rest of the win.
“Basketball is a game of streaks and (the third quarter) was cold for us,” he said. “But credit to (Montebello), they picked it up. They were forcing us to take outside shots instead of giving us lay-ups. Once we made our adjustments we were able to attack the basket more and do what we normally do.”
Mia Heidt finished with nine points. Heidt said she liked the way the Aztecs moved the ball around against the Oilers.
“We passed the ball a lot,” she said. “We were very unselfish. And we got shots everywhere. It wasn’t just 3-pointers. We came inside, too.”
Fanny Tu scored 10 points for the Aztecs. She agreed with Heidt’s assessment of Keppel’s ball movement abilities.
“We picked up on defense, our rotation was pretty much there,” she said. “We helped each other when we needed help.”
Alesia Trejo led Montebello (15-7, 5-2) with 16 points, while teammate Kyannie Brown pitched in 12 of her own.
After suffering a 58-8 loss to Keppel on Jan. 13, Montebello coach Christine Alcala-Snee played a much better game this time around.
“One of the biggest things we struggled against the last time we played them, we weren’t able to be confident with the ball in the backcourt,” she said. “We worked on our press breaks. The girls came out. They saw the open looks. And we were able to execute those passes.”
She added there was much the Oilers could take away from Tuesday night’s loss.
“We had an excellent third quarter,” Alcala-Snee said. “We won the third quarter. And I think that gave us momentum. We tell the girls all the time that we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. To do what we do we have to execute really, really well against teams like this.”