What the Torres did prove is that they can play with anyone in the state...and their super sophomore, Candice Wiggins, is capable of keeping almost any team..in any game...against any opponent...anywhere. Poly's 5-8 junior guard, Kameca Simmons, shadowed Wiggins the whole game and led a third quarter 9-0 run that erased a 36-32 halftime Country Day lead.
"I didn't start because I was late for a film session earlier in the day", explained Simmons, who was not inserted into the lineup until almost midway into the first quarter. "Coach has strict rules", said Simmons, referring to veteran coach, Carl Buggs, "but I know they're meant to make me a better person."
The benching didn't seem to affect the ball hawking Simmons as she finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals and 5 assists...plus she keyed a halftime strategy change by Buggs that was designed to deny Wiggins the ball.
"We wanted to force the ball into anyone's hands but hers", said Buggs, referring to the sleek, greyhound like Wiggins. He had seen enough of Wiggins driving past two, three and sometimes four defenders to register 18 first half points. By denying her the ball and going into a full court press with Simmons doing her job on Wiggins the Jackrabbits started to cause the turnovers that the Torres had avoided in the first half.
Wiggins only had 8 points after intermission and Country Day could only register 16 total as a team. Still, the 5-11 Wiggins collected 26 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals to be named the MVP of the game in a losing effort.
The Torres were coming off an emotional 75-70 overtime victory against arch rival, state No. 16 rated and defending state Division IV champion Bishop's School...and were physically exhausted after the game. The road doesn't get any easier as Country Day will face state-rated Santana of Santee on Wednesday with a 17-4 record. All four losses are to Division I powerhouses, including Narbonne and Lynwood.
Poly, on the other hand, is playing some the best ball anywhere in the state and looks more and more like legitimate contender to Student Sports national No. 1 Lynwood in the upcoming playoffs. The discipline and attention to detail stressed by Buggs has made Poly a formidable opponent to anyone and should get them additional attention in the Fab 50 national rankings.
Besides Simmons, 5-9 senior forward Daisy Benjamin had a super game and was a big factor in the second half. She constantly clogged the driving lane forcing Wiggins to pass off where Benjamin's speedy Jackrabbit teammates could tie up the other Torre players and cause turnovers. Benjamin finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Jackrabbits seem destined for showdowns with either Lynwood and/or Narbonne or possibly both depending on how the chips fall from here on out.
In other action at the Ayala Extravaganza...
Host Ayala (17-4), the No. 9 rated Division I team in the state upset state overall No. 5 ranked Troy of Fullerton 58-55 with 6-0 senior Kia Riley leading the way with 20 points. Coach Mel Sims' squad had superior size and experience and that was the difference down the stretch in a close game.
Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, the state's No. 14 ranked team and two-time defending Div. III state champ, rebounded from a recent loss to Long Beach Wilson by thrashing Rosary of Fullerton (12-12) 66-42 to improve to 16-4 as 6-0 junior Noelle Quinn continues to dominate opponents...this time unleashing a triple double 22-point, 21-rebound and 11-assist performance.
Artesia (13-5) had four players in double figures and improved to 13-5 by downing Muir of Pasadena (14-4) 70-62.
Esperanza of Anaheim (16-4), leading the Sunset League over Edison of Huntington Beach, won another key game by downing Citrus Belt League leader Eisenhower of Rialto (19-3) by 53-44.
The other two scores from the event were San Bernardino over Capistrano Valley of Mission Viejo, 43-32, and Bishop Amat of La Puente over Diamond Bar, 53-36.
Note: Harold Abend is the San Diego correspondent for Cal-Hi Sports and assists in public relations for the CIF state office.