Cabrillo entered the St. Joseph gym as a returning CIF State Girls Basketball Playoff team one year ago. San Luis Obispo came in unbeaten on the year.
And it was the latter getting the better end of this contest between two traditional playoff contenders – with the Tigers prevailing 51-37 on Friday afternoon in the Righetti/St. Joseph Tournament.
San Luis Obispo (13-0 overall) first threw its half court defense at CHS to slow down the Conquistadores’ tempo attack. That scheme, Cabrillo head coach Jared McCune said, disrupted both the Conqs’ offensive plan and the players’ mental psyche.
“They did more of a half court trap – that was something we hadn’t seen since playing against Clovis,” McCune said. “That kind of messed with our psyche a little bit. We’re struggling to adapt and we’re struggling to take care of the ball, which causes us to not play with a lot of energy.”
That system led to multiple turnovers and plenty of scoring opportunities for the undefeated Tigers. They then turned to sharpshooter AJ Smelser to set the scoring tone.
Smelser, a junior, relentlessly attacked the lane and banked her shots en route to 25 points on the evening. Her head coach Dan Monroe acknowledged that she was the spark that set the Tigers’ offensive blaze.
“She set the tone early,” Monroe said. “When she’s aggressive and in an attack mode and she has that mentality she is hard to stop.”
Yet, she wasn’t the only one getting on the scoring stat sheet. Teammates Anika Meyer and Lily Svetich also got on the scoring act.
“It’s hard for teams to key off of that when there are so many girls who can score,” Monroe said.
Monroe offered his praise of Cabrillo’s effort on the evening, saying “What I love about Cabrillo is that they play hard to the end. They are very well disciplined especially on the offensive end. We struggled against them when we went man. They run their offense really well. But we’re playing good basketball right now. We’re very unselfish and we have different people who step up every night.”
Cabrillo found itself down by as many as 23 in the third quarter – until the Conqs (3-10) began to go after the Tigers’ man defense scheme.
Morgan McIntyre and Jesse Jenkins began to attack SLO when the Tigers went to that game plan. McIntyre especially kept the game as close as possible with her 3-point shooting and post ability.
“She was aggressive, looking for shots and was rebounding the ball. She was also guarding one of the better players on that team,” McCune said. “I thought her effort was really good.”
McIntyre finished with a season-high of 26 points. No other CHS player, though, reached past five points. Riley Perry was the Conqs' second leading scorer at four points.
Cabrillo, though, is trying to find any kind of winning momentum after being one year removed from appearing in the state playoffs.
“We’re trying to get better as a team. Coming off last year, we’re struggling to find our identity,” McCune said. “We as coaches are also struggling to find ways to help our team. I know the girls are stressing and pressing a little bit because they want to do well, but we’re just not finding it yet.”
Cabrillo played in two games Saturday. The result of the tournament contests against Arroyo Grande and St. Joseph were not available at press time. The Conqs are scheduled to next play scheduled to play a Channel League game at home against San Marcos on Jan. 8.
Santa Barbara 54, Cabrillo 42
The Conquistadores fell to the Dons on Thursday night at CHS in the first official Channel League game for the girls varsity basketball program.
Cabrillo (3-8, 0-1) was led by Riley Perry's 14 points. Alexa McCune had nine points. Jesse Jenkins finished with eight points. McCune added three blocks.
Arroyo Grande 57, Lompoc 49
Mya Mendoza finished with 22 points for the Braves while Kayla Taylor added 12 in the eight-point loss.
Orcutt Academy 50, Morro Bay 47
The Spartans (10-3, 2-1) have scored another first, this time with the first win for an Orcutt Academy girls basketball team over Morro Bay in school history.
Orcutt Academy achieved that with an Ocean League win at Lakeview Junior High School, where the Spartans play their home games. Earlier this year, the Spartans scored their first-even win over a Templeton girls basketball team.
Giselle Calderon racked up 19 points and seven assists for the Spartans Friday night, and Mariah Lopez had 17 points and eight rebounds.
"Izzy Wasserman played outstanding defense the whole game," Orcutt coach Tom Robb said in a text.
Former Brave wrestler signs with Nebraska college
Nick Courier was one notable signing involving the area during the December early signing period on Wednesday.
The Lompoc Brave wrestler, who tussled with opponents in the 120-pound class and wrestled for two seasons at Bakersfield College, signed with York College of the NAIA on Wednesday, his former assistant coach Fred Hayes tells The Times.
Courier went on to wrestle in the 125-pound class while at BC.