Hours before their last regular-season home game of the year, Megan Hansen’s teammates wanted to show their appreciation for her.
“The whole day was actually special for me,” said Hansen, the Morro Bay High girls basketball team’s only senior. “They definitely made it memorable. They all brought me stuff during my classes, balloons and stuff, so it was really fun.”
Then, when it was game time Wednesday night, Hansen showed why she’s the Pirates’ unquestioned leader.
The 5-foot-6 point guard had 24 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six steals, leading Morro Bay to a 63-24 home win over Lompoc. Her performance came despite facing a box-and-one defense, an approach the Pirates have seen numerous times this season, coach Cary Nerelli said, given that there’s little doubt as to who their catalyst is.
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“She gets her points,” Nerelli said, “but she’s a team player first. When she’s being guarded like that, she makes sure that she does her job of moving around to clear other players, and that’s why we got so many open looks. And to other players’ credit, everybody stepped up and hit shots.”
The rest of the Pirates’ roster is made up of five sophomores and two freshmen. Of course, it’s typical for seniors everywhere to be honored to the crowd at this time of year, but it was undeniably unusual when Nerelli reminded all in attendance of Hansen’s singular status.
“Her value to us isn’t looking at stats,” Nerelli said. “She’s got stats, but her value to us is she’s the glue that holds us together.
“Trying to nurture seven sophomores and freshmen and help them grow, and at the same time provide the necessary stats that she needs to get for us to be successful, it’s a chore. And it’s a chore every day. But she comes in with a smile every day. She loves her teammates. They have grown tremendously because of her presence.”
On Wednesday, Morro Bay erupted for 31 points in the second quarter to lead 49-13 at halftime, by which point Hansen already had 19 points.
The second-quarter and first-half point totals were both school records, as was the Pirates’ 13 second-quarter field goals.
Hannah Gilbert, a 6-foot-2 sophomore center, had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Pirates (18-5, 9-2 Los Padres League), and sophomore guard Carli Watt added 10 points.
“I’m pleased with the entire team in terms of our focus as we move into this last week prior to the playoffs,” Nerelli said. “It’s important to come out and stay as focused as we have been.”
Hansen credited her supporting cast.
“Having them be young, it makes no difference for me right now,” she said. “They’ve grown so much they’re all playing like seniors, and it’s really exciting to see.”
With the win, Morro Bay moved to within one victory of tying Santa Ynez (14-11, 10-2) for a co-LPL championship. Morro Bay’s only two league defeats have come to Santa Ynez, despite being ranked seven spots higher — at No. 7 — in the latest CIF-Southern Section Division 4A poll.
Aside from the most recent game against Santa Ynez, which will go into the postseason as the league’s No. 1 seed, the Pirates have held their past four opponents to fewer than 25 points.
“The kids are really starting to pick up the concepts and the nuances of our team defense, and it’s paying off,” Nerelli said.
The Pirates close out their regular season at 6 p.m. Friday at Santa Maria. A win over the Saints (5-19, 3-8) would give the school its first claim to a league title since the 1998-99 season.
“We all want it so bad,” Hansen said. “We’ll work our hardest.”