Girls Basketball: La Jolla High uses Mission Bay victory as training for playoffs


La Jolla High School Vikings 52, Mission Bay High School Buccaneers 11

By Ed Piper

La Jolla High School Vikings coach Dave Westhem still wants his team to work on full-court and three-quarter-trapping in the press in preparation for the CIF playoffs in two weeks. So, in the Vikings’ easy 52-11 win over a depleted Mission Bay High School Buccaneers Feb. 7, they did just that — work on the press to get the kinks out.

Senior Sierra Westhem, the coach’s daughter, agreed it is still a work in progress: “We want to get better at our press. We just put a trap in, so if we’re in a close situation, then we’re able to use our trap. But it’s new and we’re not very secure.”

La Jolla center Madeleine Gates led all scorers with 16 points, and had 10 rebounds and three blocks in limited minutes as the entire squad saw playing time. Viking Westhem had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists. Senior Sophia Sowers chipped in 12 points with five assists.

The Vikings didn’t spend too much time practicing trapping, because it just forced more errors from the already hapless Buccaneer squad and ballooned the score even more.

La Jolla started early after the opening tip won by the 6-2 Gates with a 3-pointer by Sowers, another captain who had two threes in the game for a total of 57 this season, shooting at a respectable 31 percent from beyond the arc. Gates took an inside feed for a close-up basket, then had a block before Westhem scored on a layup to put the Vikings up 9-3. La Jolla looked a little sloppy in the early going, despite their superiority over Mission Bay, missing shots and committing some turnovers. But the team focus was evident.

Coach Westhem said he was really pleased with his team’s 46-34 win over rival University City Feb. 4. Playoffs start Feb. 25. The Vikings, ranked fifth in CIF Division III, are now 7-2 in Western League play, 15-8 overall.

“They (the Buccaneers) played zone the whole game, so we were able to pass to the gaps and get open for shots,” said Sowers, a 5-7 senior guard.

Sowers, a 3-point specialist whose trademark is a long red braid that swings as she moves on offense and defense, has had to make a transition to share point guard duties because of the needs of the team. She has handled it with aplomb. “It’s definitely new, but it has definitely helped me improve my ball-handling,” she said. “I’ve been able to start driving to the basket more because I’ve been put into that position. I’ve just become more confident with my ball-handling skills. So, it’s beneficial.”

Sowers leads the Vikings with a 14.3 points per game average, with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Sierra Westhem averages 9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game.

“For CIF, we need to be more than one-dimensional and just be looking for shots, because those shots don’t always fall. Lay-ups are more a guarantee,” Westhem said. That’s what the Vikings focused on in the game.

■ Next Up:

Cathedral Catholic High at La Jolla High 6 p.m. Feb. 13, as part of a pre-Presidents Weekend Holiday with the boys playing at 7:30 p.m. The girls played Our Lady of Peace Feb. 11.

■ STATS — Points:

La Jolla High School — Gates 16, Sowers 12, Westhem 11, Polcyn 4, Sakura Roberson 2, Kennedy 2, Wang 2, Tajran 0, Harmeyer 0, Satori Roberson 0, Cardenas 0, Miller 0.

Mission Bay High School — Shirminisha 5. Rebounds: Gates 10, Westhem 10, Polcyn 4, Sakura Roberson 4, Satori Roberson 3.

Assists: Sowers 5, Westhem 3, Polcyn 2.