Morro Bay girls clinch LPL basketball title

Morro Bay completes sweep of Templeton, closes in on undefeated league season

nwilson@thetribunenews.comJanuary 30, 2013 

Morro Bay High’s Sierra Schwellenbach, who had seven points, seven assists and seven steals, looks for a teammate to pass to against the defense of Templeton’s Autumn Russell (10) and Marissa Torres (12).

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Morro Bay High’s girls basketball team is so dominant this year that, in its undefeated Los Padres League season, they’ve won every game by at least 25 points. 

Against Templeton on Wednesday night, the second-place Eagles closed a third quarter deficit to 11. 

Then, the Pirates stepped on the gas and proceeded to build another large lead, finishing with a 59-29 victory to clinch the LPL title. 

Morro Bay (17-3, 10-0), the eighth-ranked team in CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA this week, was led by Cal Poly-bound center Hannah Gilbert, who scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Junior point guard Sierra Schwellenbach recorded seven points, seven assists and seven steals. 

And junior guard Kara Schmidt had her highest-scoring game of the season with 12, including a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third quarter that seemed to deflate Templeton after its run. 

“Templeton came very well prepared tonight,” Morro Bay coach Cary Nerelli said. “We knew they would. I think we shot the ball very well, and we plugged the passing lanes. I’m very happy with the way the girls played.”

Templeton (18-4, 7-2) hoped to avenge a 58-26 home loss to the Pirates on Jan. 9 and contend for a league co-championship. 

But the Eagles had a difficult shooting night against a matchup zone anchored by Gilbert, a 6-foot-3 senior center who shut down the paint, and the speed of Schwellenbach, who Nerelli says is the fastest player in the league.

Autumn Russell had a team-high seven points for the Eagles and played an active game on defense, fighting fiercely for loose balls. 

Three other Eagles — Mari Stewart, Briana Belmonte and Megan Hattar –— each had six points for the Eagles.

“We knew it would be tough to get inside and we tried to play more of an outside game,” Templeton coach Shawn Koehler said. “But we hurried some shots and just couldn’t get going. That has a lot to do with their defense. They really pressured us.”

Gilbert said that she was thrilled about clinching the league championship. 

“They’re a really good team,” Gilbert said. “I’m really excited. When we were starting to lose some momentum in the second half, (Nerelli) told us just to play our game and do the things we normally do. It’s hard because at halftime, you have to stop when you’re playing so well. And we had a little trouble getting started again.” 

Gilbert said that she and her teammates are eagerly anticipating the playoffs, and they like where they’re at with their season. 

“We’re the eighth-ranked team in the division and that’s kind of a great place because teams will respect us, but we might sneak under the radar a little bit,” Gilbert said. 

Nerelli said another positive sign about the way the Pirates are playing down the stretch is how many players are doing their part in role positions. 

Schmidt, who averages five points on the season and scored 12, and reserve guard Caitlyn Cowardin, who drained two 3-pointers and scored eight points for the Pirates, were two of several players who made strong contributions in Wednesday’s game.

“We’re really a good team,” Nerelli said. “So many different players are making contributions for us.”   

Schwellenbach said that a focus on this game was to stop the Eagles from getting out and running, which Templeton likes to do. 

“We really didn’t let them get out on fast breaks,” Schwellenbach said.

The speedy point guard, who had two key steals that she converted into easy layups among her seven steals in the in the contest, said it’s a pleasure to play with Gilbert. 

“She’s great,” Schwellenbach said. “Whenever we’re in trouble, we throw the ball into her and she just does her thing.”

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