Senior Power Too Much for Bonita to Overcome in 57-43 Loss to Santa Margarita

February 28, 2010
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Bonita's Brianna Kennedy, just a sophomore, had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Bonita's Brianna Kennedy, just a sophomore, had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Sometimes, there’s no substitute for experience and senior leadership, and those traits were on display in spades Saturday night in Las Flores, Calif., where the Santa Margarita Eagles defeated the younger Bonita Bearcats 57-43 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3A semifinals.

Eagles seniors Madison McKenney (Cal State Bakersfield), Melissa Zornig (UC Santa Barbara), Denise Fernandez and Elize Lorenz played bruising, in-your-face-defense for a full 32 minutes, a withering, physical style of play that curtailed Bonita’s customary offensive output. Bonita was down 5-0 and committed four turnovers before Taylor Anderson’s short jumper finally got the Bearcats on the board.

To Bonita’s credit, the lady Bearcats settled down and fought back to trail by a single point, 12-11, after Madison Zylstra’s jumper, part of a 5-0 run to finish the first quarter. Anderson finished the period with 8 first-quarter points.

At the start of the second quarter, another hoop by Anderson gave Bonita its first lead, 13-12, and then the junior Bonita guard dished out a beautiful assist to center Brianna Kennedy to help the Bearcats go up 15-12. A spin move under the basket by the Eagles’ Lorenz finally snapped Bonita’s 9-0 run.

The two teams began trading baskets, but after a free throw by Anderson put Bonita back on top, 19-18, Santa Margarita finished the half with a 7-0 run of its own to head into the locker room, leading 25-19.

In the third quarter, the Eagles expanded their lead to 37-25, with Zornig’s 7 points and Fernandez’s 4 points making the difference. On defense, the Eagles picked up Bonita’s guards high above the 3-point arc based on their scouting reports showing Bonita picking apart teams with their outside shooting. Their coach Matt Houser admitted he preferred playing a swarming, attack-style defense at the risk of foul trouble rather than letting Bonita dictate the game’s offensive rhythm.

“We knew they were a great 3-point shooting team,” Houser said. “We knew No. 21 (Anderson) was good at breaking the defense down and kicking out. We watched the Palos Verdes game, and they just let them have wide-open shots. Today, we stayed in a man-to-man defense, where have to prove you can take the person one-on-one off the dribble and not give up a wide-open three. We paid for that a little bit, because we got into foul trouble here and there, but again, it took them out of their style of game, which is the 3-point shot. So they had to look in the inside or off the dribble, and they had a tough time with that.”

McKenney, the Eagles’ tenacious 5-foot-five defender fouled out with 5:22 left in the fourth quarter and Santa Margarita leading 41-29. It was thought her premature exit might leave the door ajar for a Bonita comeback, but the Eagles didn’t skip a beat after her departure. Bonita shaved the lead to 48-39 with 2:09 left, but could get no closer.

“Again, it comes down to the seniors,” Hauser said. “They’ve been through this time and time again. Last year, they were at Tesoro and lost. They did not want to lose again. Bonita would catch up, but then you would see the execution of our seniors. Our girls would come down and hit a huge shot and then they’d play great defense on the other end to keep that lead. It just wears on a team that’s fighting to come back.”

After McKenney fouled out, the game became a showcase for Zornig who finished with a game-high 25 point to go with her 10 steals.

“She came to play,” Hauser said, “and that’s the true sign of a great player. She plays both ends of the court. She set up our other players, as well.

Hauser added that his team’s physical posture stems from playing tough opponents all season.

“The Trinity league is the No. 1 league in the nation,” he said. “When we go up against Mater Dei twice, Orange Lutheran twice, Rosary twice, every single game is a battle. They’re all ranked, all great teams. When you play the nation’s No. 1 team twice in a year, it just prepares for games like this.”

Bonita Coach Darren Baumunk was gracious in defeat after leading Bonita (25-5) to a fabulous season.

“They just put up a lot of pressure,” Baumunk said. “They didn’t allow us to do anything. They were all over each one of our players. It was hard for anyone to get open. They didn’t allow any of our shooters to shoot. They took our three-point shooters away.”

Bonita flashed its running game at times, but Santa Margarita kept throttling it back.

“We couldn’t run enough, and I think that was difference,” Baumunk said. “We couldn’t attack and run and run and run.

“You have to give them credit; they’re heck of a ball club.”

What does Bonita take away from the loss?

“We’ll have a lot of experience, that’s for sure,” Baumunk said. “We’re going to miss our three seniors (Lauren Hastings, Ariana Domasin and Alejandra Garay), but we have a good group of kids coming back.

“I told our girls right here, that next year is going to be our turn. We’re going to get to the finals and make something happen.”

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