Redemption began with a white, black and gold defensive onslaught from Cabrillo’s side on Wednesday night.
After falling to Downey Warren 47-42 with the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA title hanging in the balance and struggling with slowing down Bakersfield Golden Valley’s transition attack in the first half of the Conqs' state Div. III playoff opener, the Conquistadores turned to a recognizable blueprint – and one that has helped prevent CHS girls basketball players from turning in their basketball uniform to the equipment manager: Defense.
Cabrillo has used its play off the ball to place a cap on scoring chances – and get the Conqs to survive and advance in these playoffs. Head coach Jared McCune has implemented a system that has seen the Conqs allow no more than 52 points all season long, plus only surrender 60 points or more three times since 2016.
“We pride ourselves all year on defense – limiting teams to score,” McCune said.
And that fortified 3-2 scheme will aim to continue Cabrillo’s season, as the Conqs will return to Vandenberg Village to have their rematch with Fullerton Sunny Hills on Saturday at 6 p.m., with the winner taking on either Cypress Oxford Academy or South Gate Legacy.
The 3-2 zone has seen a swarm of CHS players attack the basketball and then turn it into an offensive layup or turnover on the opponents’ side. Cabrillo threw the triple team underneath its own hoop on numerous occasions on Wednesday night to turn the tide back to its side – helping turn a 25-25 second quarter score to a 60-43 rout of the Bulldogs.
Players like Erin Jenkins, Morgan McIntyre, Jesse Jenkins, Alexa McCune, Amani Childres and Valerie Monzon have embraced Cabrillo’s defensive approach. McCune said this scheme was formulated following a tough playoff loss against Righetti back in 2016.
“They (RHS) had a lot of shooters,” McCune recalled from that night. “Even though we lost that game the coaches and players made it clear that defense would be a point of emphasis.”
Now, CHS’s defensive wave has washed away any chances of running up the score against the Conqs. And that one game that saw Cabrillo surrender its most points of the season in 2017-18? That game was still won by the Conqs 62-52 against Templeton.
How serious is McCune and the CHS coaches about their girls being a defender on the floor?
“If girls don’t work hard playing defense, they won’t get much playing time,” he said. “It’s something we stress.”
And the results on defense have been, what McCune called, encouraging.
“We now know how to limit points. If we hold teams to under 40 points, we have a shot to win the game,” McCune said. “It’s not surprising. It’s an advantage we have.”
Cabrillo will now look to halt a Sunny Hills team that will bring versatility and knowledge of what the Conqs do, since it was back on Feb. 24 when these two teams met in Orange County with CHS escaping 49-39 after adjusting to a man scheme with its 3-2.
“I’m sure they will be prepared to mix things up,” McCune said. “They’ve got shooters and a big post player inside. We know what we can do.”
Defense has been the locomotive for Cabrillo’s ride through state – and utilized to place that devastating Southern Section title game loss in its rear view mirror.
“I think they wanted it bad,” McCune said regarding that title game loss. “They were disappointed by how they played. But I told them ‘Great teams respond after a loss.’ And they responded well.”