When Poly High looks back on its 2014-15 basketball season — and it will in time — the Parrots can reflect on 25-wins, an East Valley League title, the No.1 seed in the playoffs and a deep playoff run.
The only regret: coming up one game short of the ultimate goal, winning a City Section girls’ Division III championship. More accurately, the Parrots came up one quarter short.
They battled Legacy High of Los Angeles pretty evenly the first three quarters the of March 6 contest and were only trailing by one point, 39-38, when the fourth quarter started. Then it was if somebody — probably Legacy — pulled the plug.
The Tigers scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter, holding the Parrots scoreless for 4:25. That made the score 50-38, and Legacy (26-9) went on to record a 56-46 victory, at Royal Learning Center in Los Angeles for its first City girls title.
What was frustrating for Poly was how well two of its best weapons — speed and shooting — were neutralized. The Tigers were as quick and as fast as the Parrots; they were also taller and wider. That gave Legacy control of the boards and the tempo. Poly too often was restricted to one shot, and its defense had to work much harder than usual to stay in front of Legacy shooters and rebounders.
What kept Poly in the game was the fact Legacy was not shooting well, and too often threw up the first shot it had. The Parrots — when they could get an open look — made enough of them to always hang around and were in position to steal the game at the end.
It was not meant to be. By the fourth quarter the Parrots were out of gas, physically and emotionally. By the end of the fourth quarter, they were out of luck.
Poly Coach Tremeka Batiste lamented her team’s performance afterward.
“The girls wanted it so badly that they took themselves out of their game,” Batiste said. “They were doing things that were uncharacteristic — my point guard wasn’t looking for anyone to pass to, one of my shooting guards was too afraid to drive and when she realized she could drive it was at the end. The big girl Ileya (Rivera), at the start of the game, was too afraid to shoot because she doesn’t want to mess up.
“I don’t think they were afraid of the moment, because it was something we talked about at halftime. They lost focus. They wanted to play so hard, they forgot to play,” she said.
Poly point guard Monica Perla was hounded relentlessly. And the Tigers clamped down on Parrots’ scoring guard Esmeralda Perez as much as they could. Perez did score a game-high 15 points, but only had one basket each in the second, third and fourth quarters.
And even though Legacy struggled to score consistently — guard Jennifer Pool was the team leader with 11 points — it’s two six-foot centers, Leslie Aguayo and Nayeli Avalos, seemed to grab every loose ball off the backboard and rim.
When the Tigers got that decisive spurt to start the fourth quarter, there was little else the Parrots could do.
“We wanted to keep the ball out of [Perla’s] hands. And we wanted to keep the game close, and in the second half unleash them,” Tigers Coach Ronald Estrada said. “We wanted to control the fouls in the first half to make sure all my strongest players were foul ready in the second. And in the second half, just go out there and play. And in the third quarter, I thought [the Parrots] were getting weary, so I tried to keep throwing fresh legs at them.”