By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
PASADENA — A football player made the difference in a CIF State girls basketball playoff game Tuesday night.
Jade Richard-Craven played on the special teams and in the secondary for the Pasadena Poly football team. Tuesday at Poly, that football conditioning was evident in a 63-33 victory over Vincent Memorial of Calexico in a CIF State Division 5 Southern California Regional first-round game.
She had a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds and got the CIF-Southern Section champion Panthers going when Michelle Miller couldn’t seem to buy a basket.
“She’s strong and mentally tough,” Poly coach Kim Weber said. “It’s tough to have to play with all those guys. What she does doesn’t show up in the stats.”
Richard-Craven made 9 of 15 shots, nearly all from the 15-foot range. Miller, who’s averaging 33.3 points per game, scored a game-high 25 points on 10-of-27 shooting.
“Michelle’s on is 46 points,” Richard-Craven said. “Her off is still 20, 25, so we’re going to be fine.
“All the other starters need to pick up the slack, score when we can and get rebounds.”
Early in the game, it was the 5-foot-7, 140-pound senior who seemed to get the Panthers going. With Poly trailing 5-4, she hit back-to-back jumpers and Poly (27-2) found its rhythm. The Panthers had missed eight consecutive shots before Richard-Craven’s two makes.
Miller scored four consecutive layups, all but one off turnovers under the basket, and the Panthers outscored the Scots 14-0 to close out the second quarter.
Courtney Foster’s 18-footer to start the third quarter made it 31-11.
Richard-Craven had 10 points at the half and scored eight more in the third quarter. Poly led 45-16 midway through the quarter.
“Training with the boys, I physically had to push hard in training myself,” she said. “Playing with the girl is relatively easier. I’m not getting winded on the court.”
It was likely her final home game and there were no seats remaining in the gym.
“She played like it was her very last game,” Weber said. “She played so well. Defensively, she had been so amazing for us.”
The Panthers, the sixth seed, will play at Visalia’s Central Valley Christian on Thursday. The No. 3 Cavaliers defeated Redlands Adventist on Tuesday.