By John Honell, Correspondent
Bonita High School used a stifling defense to successfully defend its Covina girls basketball tournament title with a 46-40 victory over Roosevelt of Corona on Saturday night. The Bearcats (5-0) held the Mustangs (5-1) scoreless for more than 10 minutes from the 4:52 mark of the second quarter to the 2:51 mark of the third.
“The first two games of this tournament, our defense wasn’t very good,” Bearcats coach Darren Baumunk said. “Last night (against Valley Christian) and tonight I think we stepped up our defense. I think we held them to two points in the second quarter.”
The Bearcats built a 37-25 lead at the end of three quarters then held off a furious charge by the Mustangs, who closed the gap to 39-34 with 3:02 left in the game.
At that point senior Jaclyn Smith took charge for the Bearcats. She hit a short jumper with 1:29 left then hit a pair of free throws.
She then grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled and made another free throw to put the game out of reach.
“That (rebound) was huge,” Baumunk said. “I don’t think we made a basket until Nikki made that (offensive rebound) shot and got fouled. Jaclyn’s shot was key at that point – I think it was a five-point game – then she got to the free throw line.”
The Mustangs got their fast break working and took a 16-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. Brittany Williams and Alexus Strong each hit a 3-pointer and Yasmin Taylor scored three baskets in close.
Freshman point guard Nikki Wheatley scored six points and sophomore Stephanie Vanna came off the bench to score on an offensive rebound at the end of the quarter to keep the Bearcats close.
Wheatley finished with 10 points and was named the tournament MVP.
“I try not to hesitate if I’m open,” Wheatley said. “I just try and help the team when I can.”
The Mustangs took an 18-17 lead on a short shot by Taylor, then the Bearcats defense took charge. Taylor led the Mustangs with 16 points.
“Nikki Wheatley is doing a very good job of keeping their guards out so they can’t penetrate to the basket,” Baumunk said. “If she keeps their guards out, then we’re OK. If they go by her, then we’re in trouble.”
The Bearcats went on a 14-0 run, including a pair of 3-pointers by Madison Zylstra, to give them a 31-18 lead.
The Mustangs broke the dry spell on a layup and free throw by Bree Ball at the 2:51 mark of the third quarter.
“Being the defending champs is nice,” Baumunk said. “We lost in the (CIF) semis last year and need to play better defense than we did last year. Hopefully this’ll be a good year for us. They all work together and all practice hard together so we’re excited (about this year.)”
Zylstra, last year’s tournament MVP, hit 4 of 12 3-point shots and led the Bearcats with 16 points. Taylor Anderson added 11.