The San Luis Obispo High girls basketball team used heavy defensive pressure, a team strength, to grab a commanding first-quarter lead against Cabrillo in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A playoffs Thursday.
Then, the Tigers stepped on the gas pedal to transform Cabrillo turnovers into easy buckets to command a 21-3 first-quarter lead.
San Luis Obispo (16-10) won the game 54-29 behind 18 points and eight rebounds from Jessica Judge, a 6-foot-1 junior point guard.
Senior forward Sam Lopez played “her best game of the season” for the Tigers,” according San Luis Obispo coach Dan Monroe, and tallied eight points, 12 rebounds, and three steals.
The fourth-seeded Tigers were somewhat limited as leading scorer Erica Chandler battled sickness and came off the bench to add seven points and seven rebounds. Chandler is averaging 13 points per game.
Monroe also said that 5-11 forward Morgan Liebscher was dealing with a knee strain, but she still had five points.
“Defensively, we really put pressure on teams and it’s no secret that it’s a strength of our team,” Monroe said. “Teams average about 36 points per game against us. I thought we pressured well and rotated extremely well to cover assignments tonight.”
The Tigers used a half-court press that forced numerous errant Conquistadores passes and lead to steals.
Judge had 13 of her 18 points in the first half. Monroe said Judge is a leader by example and a gym rat who loves to work on her game; her confidence has grown since joining the varsity as a sophomore.
She kickstarted an offense that has made significant strides in taking care of the ball since the beginning of the season.
“I think, as a team, we’re staying calm and controlled and moving the ball well,” Judge said.
“I thought tonight we came out really strong and powerful in the first half and then let down a little in the third quarter. But we got our intensity and defensive pressure up to end the game.”
Judge said that she has played various positions this season but likes her role as point guard in which she gets to utilize her ball handling skills and perimeter game. She also made multiple left-handed shots though she’s right-handed,
“My goal is to be ambidextrous,” Judge said. “I’d like to be equally good with my left as my right.”
San Luis Obispo won its sixth straight after finishing third in the PAC 7.
The Tigers will host 13th-seeded Ganesha in Saturday’s second around at 5 p.m.
Ganesha defeated Gabrielino in another first-round playoff game Thursday.
The Tigers’ coach said that ball movement has been a point of emphasis for his team, and players were making crisp passes around the perimeter to get the ball inside for layups and point blank mid-range jumpers.
Christine Freberg had nine points for the Tigers, including a 3-pointer. She also has five rebounds and three steals.
Cabrillo’s leading scorer, sophomore point guard Gaby Baumgardner, who averages 10 points per game, had nine points.
“Our goal was to get to the playoffs,” Judge said. “Now that we’re here, it’s gratifying, but we want to work even harder to go as far as we can in playoffs.”