Early on, the Templeton High girls basketball team struggled to gain control against an opponent with a sensational point guard with the ability to take the ball coast-to-coast and nail 3-pointers from well behind the arc.
But the Eagles somehow turned a modest early second-half lead into a 37-point advantage in just a few short minutes.
They switched to a man-to-man defense and put guard Autumn Russell — one of Templeton’s best defenders — on Buckley freshman point guard Leah Purvis, strategies that worked quite well in a dominating 83-48 win on Thursday night in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5AA playoffs.
Templeton will move on to play either Hillcrest Christian of Granada Hills or Animo Leadership of Inglewood on Saturday.It is believed that the Eagles (20-7) hadn’t won a postseason game in at least 15 years.
“We came into this game wanting to have practice (the next day),” said Templeton power forward Mari Stewart, who had game-highs of 25 points and 20 rebounds.
Point guard Lauren Stuedemann scored 18 of her 19 points in the second half to go along with seven rebounds and four assists and Russell, the defensive specialist, frustrated Purvis, who exploded for 20 points in the first half but finished with three the rest of the way.
“She was pretty fast,” Russell said about Purvis, “but I thought I did a pretty good job on her. Coach told me to deny her at all times.”
Russell finished with six steals and five assists to go along with 17 points. Jeannine Madson added 11 points and Templeton teammate Paige O’Sullivan contributed seven rebounds and six assists. And the Eagles won with a starting lineup that featured four sophomores and one senior.
“With this program, we’ve come a long way,” Templeton coach Shawn Koehler said.
The same could be said about Thursday’s game, one in which the Eagles endured nine lead changes and six ties in the first half. They had only a 39-37 edge early in the third quarter before everything changed.
Templeton started the game with a zone defense, which Buckley of Sherman Oaks exploited. The Griffins (11-9) knocked in all five of their 3-pointers in the first two quarters, with Purvis and Brenda Boudaie each having two apiece. Purvis looked nearly unstoppable, slicing through the Templeton defense with her nifty dribbling.
“We came out to start the game with a zone and they were hitting their outside shots,” Koehler said. “They have really good shooters. But what we did was that we switched to man and put our best defender on (Purvis). They slowed down a little bit and didn’t get any open looks.”
While Russell held Purvis in check, her Templeton teammates did everything else. The Eagles went on a 15-1 run to make it a 54-39 lead midway through the third quarter, held the Griffins to just two field goals in that period and Stuedemann — one of Templeton’s top scorers — overcame early foul trouble by leading the charge.
The Eagles then turned a 21-point third quarter lead into 37 after a series of 3-pointers late in the game.
When it was over, the Templeton players knew what they had accomplished.
“It feels really good because Templeton usually doesn’t win anything and we won something,” Russell said.Before Koehler took over in 2009, the Eagles had only won seven games in the previous three seasons.