Mike and JJ covered the State playoff games Tuesday night (Poly & San Clemente here, A.B. Miller & Millikan here); here’s our impression of what the action will look like Thursday night at Poly’s Ron Palmer Pavillion, as the Rabbits take on A.B. Miller at 7pm in the Quarterfinals…
MG: Tuesday’s game against San Clemente was the tightest game we’ve seen the Jackrabbits in over the last several weeks, but somehow that only made them look more impressive. Everybody thought that Monique Oliver was going to be the key to this game, and even when she fouled out and was held scoreless, Coach Buggs went to the deepest bench in high school hoops and didn’t miss a step. That stifling defense looked as stifle-rific as ever, while Jasmine Dixon lit up the scoreboard. Nagging injuries aside, it’s hard to find a downside for Poly (though they could shoot better from the field and the line early in the game). It’s probably safe to assume that most fans at Thursday’s game will have seen Poly, though; it’s Miller that will be the wild card. How do you think their offense is going to look against Poly’s big D?
JJ: Well, A.B. Miller is extremely well coached by Mel Wilkins, whose Rebels won their second consecutive CIF title this year. Both seniors and sophomores play within themselves, and within coach Wilkins’ system. Sophomore Chloe Wells and fellow guard Brianna Hall, averaging 17 and 14 points a game respectively, drive the Rebels’ multifaceted attack. With Wells and Hall on the perimeter and in the lane, that opens up plenty of quality looks for 6’0″ post player Kenisha McKee, who feels at home both under the bucket and behind the arc. The most improved thing about Miller since its loss to Millikan in early January (the second of two on the year) is the girls’ defensive intensity. With dueling full-court presses imminent, is Poly ready for a taste of its own medicine?
MG: The good money says they’ll be ready. I’ve talked to Buggs after their last several games, and this is not a coach or a team that’s taking any game for granted. He and his staff put together a hell of a game plan for San Clemente, executed to near perfection by his team, after having film on them for less than twenty-four hours. With no practice. I think Miller’s lack of height is going to hurt them, and I’d look for Poly’s Ariya Crook-Williams, the speedster freshman, to put in good coverage against Chloe Wells. With Poly’s speed up front and their height and strength at the forward and center positions, it’s usually hard for teams to maintain defensive pressure for four quarters, and I don’t know that things will be different with Miller. I think it’s going to come down to how well they can game plan for Wells (and they have twice as long to work on that as they did to prepare for San Clemente’s Kristen Riley), and how well they can get the ball in to Dixon and Oliver. Poly always has a role player step up, but in a game with a height advantage like this one, I’d expect the team’s two top scorers to be its two top scorers. If that makes sense. I’m awful with scores but I’m going to throw out 60-44, Poly.
JJ: You’re right, but you haven’t seen Chloe Wells break the press. I’m not going to say that she or Brianna Hall are faster than Crook-Williams, but it would be a great race. As for maintaining defensive pressure for four quarters, Miller did slack its press late in Tuesday’s game, but their zone collapses like a Venus Flytrap. Dixon and Oliver will be surrounded all night, so the Jackrabbits will have to shoot the ball, something that causes Buggs some concern. In the first half on Tuesday (as Millikan went on a 14-0 run) Wells and Hall were still creating good looks, but the Rebels couldn’t get anything to drop. If they can find a rhythm—which, granted, will be hard against Poly’s famous defense—they could stay in the game by simply outshooting the Jackrabbits. Bottom line, it’s going to come down to who takes care of the ball. Millikan gave the game to Miller on Tuesday by turning the ball over, but I don’t think Poly is going to do that on Thursday. But Mike, 60-44? 16 points?!?! It’s going to be a lot closer, I’ll say 51-46 Poly. It’s going to be a good one.
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