The number one seeded Lady Aztecs handily defeated the Hart High School Indians, 62-39, in the first round of the CIF State Championship Tournament. The game, which took place on Wednesday night, March 11, was Keppel’s first test in the round of 32.
The Hart Indians, from Newhall, CA, brought their fans to a nearly full Aztec Stadium as the 16th seed. Meanwhile, still reeling from two straight losses in the CIF-Southern Section tournament, the Aztecs wanted to get off to a fast start. They did just that by controlling the first quarter, with the help of two baskets by senior Tammi Matsukiyo, and bringing a strong 15-6 lead into the second.
The second quarter got underway with a quick score by Hart. After a return basket by Keppel, Hart scored a three-pointer to narrow the lead to 6. Keppel immediately fired back with a triple of their own from senior Kelli Kamida, who made one three-pointer in every quarter. Kamida’s three was Keppel’s only outside shot of the quarter as they stuck to the paint. A couple acrobatic layups by senior point guard Lauren Saiki and quick scores inside by junior Sophia Song, the game’s leading scorer, returned the momentum to Keppel. By pushing the tempo and playing well in transition offense, the Aztecs scored another 15 points in the second quarter, ending the half with a 30-17 lead.
The Aztecs struck first following half time with a fast break eurostep layup by Saiki. The first 4 minutes of the third quarter were low scoring, but Song and senior Kylie Fujioka were able to control the glass to prevent Hart from receiving second chances. With the score at 34-20, Kamida hit her another three which was immediately returned a Hart triple. The two three-pointers jumpstarted both offenses. The score was more even in the third quarter, with Hart scoring 10 to Keppel’s 13. Despite this, Keppel took a 43-27 lead into the final period.
The Lady Aztecs were able to widen their lead in the 4th quarter with Saiki attacking the paint. At one point, Hart scored 5 straight but a swing pass from Saiki to Song to Fujioka, who scored on a layup, halted the run. Hart, who had repeatedly missed good looks throughout the game, began to turn to the outside game. They were unable to narrow the margin, however, and Keppel soon expanded their lead to 20. Coach Joe Kikuchi, who had been using his starters for the majority of the game, slowly subbed them out to allow other players time on the court around the 3 minute mark. Sophomore Katie Kuang and senior Meredith Lew Tan both scored in the final minute of the game as Keppel put Hart away with a final score of 62-39.
Song finished with 19 points and led all scorers. Saiki and Kamida both scored in double digits, with 16 and 12, respectively. 8 players from Keppel scored overall.The Lady Aztecs will move on to the second round of the tournament, where they will play Independence High School at 6pm on Saturday, March 14, at Aztec Stadium.