Sabrina Degnan is getting hot at the right time for the Atascadero High girls basketball team.
The sophomore guard has had some of her best games down the stretch and helped lead the Greyhounds (15-9) to a 66-42 runaway CIF-Southern Section 3AA first-round playoff victory over visiting Bellflower (9-19) at Ewing Gym on Thursday.
“She’s been a really big part of our team,” fellow sophomore guard Maddie Leong said. “She scores a lot of 3s.”
With a couple of first-quarter buckets to kick off a decisive run that stretched into the second quarter, Degnan finished with 16 points, including three 3-pointers, despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter when the Greyhounds went almost exclusively to their reserves.
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Averaging 5.1 points per game in the regular season, Degnan scored a career-high
19 in the penultimate game of the regular season, a 57-39 victory over Righetti on Feb. 6 that helped Atascadero earn the No. 7 seed in the playoff bracket.
Over the past five games, she is averaging 11.4 points for coach Jim Stecher.
“Lately, I’ve been working on my layups a lot more,” Degnan said, “and then I just started practicing my 3s, and coach told me to keep my arm up. That was my main problem, and once I got that, I felt like it just flowed better.”
Leong scored 14 points, including two 3s of her own, senior forward Bridget Van Beek scored nine of her 11 points in the second half and junior Camille LeBlanc had 10 points, including two 3-pointers.
Nine of the 12 Greyhounds players who entered the game put points on the board. Atascadero’s 66 points were a season high and 20 more than the team’s season average.
“Almost everyone on our team scored,” Leong said, “so I think we played really well together as a team and didn’t play as individuals.”
The score was tied 7-7 in the first quarter when the Greyhounds went on a 19-2 run to pull away.
The streak was started by back-to-back baskets inside by Degnan, and Sarah Stafford hit a buzzer-beater that bounced off the rim a few times and rolled in to end the first quarter.
Atascadero continued to pour it on and led 34-15 at halftime.
From there, the Greyhounds’ lead hovered around 20 points for the rest of the game. Bellflower
was led by Marcella Tanuvasa’s 12 points, and Atascadero limited Buccaneers leading scorer Asia Johnson to just four points and one field goal after she was averaging 8.7 points coming in.
“At the beginning, we were all nervous,” Degnan said. “Of course, it’s the first playoff game. So, after we got past that, and after we got a couple of layups, we got comfortable with ourselves, and we started playing like we usually do.”
Leong said she expected a closer contest with Bellflower’s size advantage in the post.
Matching up down low has been a concern for Atascadero, ever since 6-foot forward Mary Kate Evans went down for the season with a foot injury in early January.
Evans, a Cal Poly signee, averaged 12 points per game and 8.3 rebounds before shutting it down.
“We’ve been searching for that identity with Mary Kate gone,” Stecher said. “I think we found it tonight. We play a good team defense and run fast.
“We had a really great inside game with Mary Kate with scoring and rebounding. Now, everybody’s got to rebound.”
Led by the young nucleus, the Greyhounds finished 6-6 in the PAC 7, never once winning or losing more than two straight after Evans went out. To keep the playoff run going, that trend will have to change, but with little postseason experience to draw upon, Atascadero is just taking things as they come.
“Hopefully,” Leong said, “we’ll win on Saturday.”