By SHEL SEGAL
ALHAMBRA – It wasn’t supposed to end like this. At least, not this soon.
The Keppel girls basketball team ran into a bigger and more physical squad from St. Anthony, falling 60-49 at home on Saturday night in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs.
The Aztecs had advanced to the second round after receiving a bye in the first round.
Keppel (22-6) led, 14-8, with 2:01 left in the first quarter on a 3-pointer by Jocelyn Song. But that was as good as it would get for the Aztecs, who allowed six straight points to end the frame, tied 14-all.
St. Anthony (16-13) got hot in the second period as Semaj Smith took control, singlehandedly scoring the quarter’s first six points. Smith was helped out by Juliana Louis and the Saints outscored the Aztecs, 18-8, in the second frame, leading at halftime, 32-22.
Keppel, however, wasn’t ready to quit and cut the lead to three points, 39-36, at the end of the quarter via a field goal from Alyssa Lee and a free throw by Cassandra Shimada.
But St. Anthony’s Lauren Morris took over in the fourth quarter and four 3-pointers to cap the victory for the Saints.
Morris led all scorers with 17 points. Teammates Smith scored 15 points, while Drew Sharp had 11.
For the Aztecs, Fanny Tu had a team-high 15 points, while Lee had 11 and Song pitched in eight of her own.
Keppel coach Jose Herrera said the Aztecs just ran into a bunch of headaches against the Saints.
“(St. Anthony’s) zone gave us a big problem,” he said. “Their length gave us a big problem. We knew we were going to be the smaller team. It happens every year. We’re always the short team. But we always manage to compete and fight.”
He added that despite the loss, he liked the way his girls didn’t quit, fighting and diving for loose balls even to the end.
“We gave it our all,” Herrera said. “We didn’t give up. And at the end (St. Anthony) made more shots than we did. That was the difference. But the difference between the shots that go in and these is these were contested shots. They did a phenomenal job contesting our shooters. The credit goes out to St. Anthony.”
St. Anthony coach James Anderson said the difference in the game was that the Saints simply got the ball to go in the basket.
“The biggest thing was we shot the ball really well,” he said. “I think we made good adjustments as far as stopping (Keppel’s) penetration. They shoot the ball pretty well normally. Their shots didn’t drop and we had some big shots that dropped. That’s the bottom line.”
He added his team did a good job on defense to stop the Aztecs.
“I think our size and limiting (Keppel) to one rebound really helped,” Anderson said. “But we just stopped their penetration and the kick-outs. … We went out to a zone. We extended it out a little bit. And I think it bothered them more.”
Anderson also said while St. Anthony’s overall record wasn’t as good coming into the game as Keppel’s, his girls play in a very tough league that helps them with their caliber of play.
“Serra’s in our league,” he said. “They’re in the (CIF-Southern Section Open Division) and we lost to them twice. A lot of our nonconference games were against (open division teams). We try to play a difficult schedule.”