“Our bench stepped up big time for us,” said Wolfpack coach Shannon Maurice whose Great Oak team advanced into the Sweet Sixteen round with a 71-52 victory over the San Clemente Tritons. The Tritons were undefeated in South Coast League play and 19-8 overall coming into the second round game of the CIF SS-Ford Division 1AA Championships, presented by Farmers.
“Great Oak was very aggressive in the second half,” said Tritons’ coach Lacey Burns, “They work hard, they’re well-coached and they have some nice basketball players.”
Early foul trouble kept two of Great Oak’s starters – Roya Rustamzada and Mikayla Williams — on the bench for much of the first half. Rustamzada only saw four and a half minutes of play in the opening two periods. “It’s frustrating,” said Rustamzada, “but our bench really pulled us through.”
The Tritons drew first blood with a three-pointer by power forward Jessica DeGree. DeGree averages 23.3 points per game and had scored 50 points in the 98-67 game against Aliso Niguel two weeks ago. DeGree ended the night with 18.
Rustamzada took the lead back for the Wolfpack with two free throws and an offensive putback, but a Triton free throw tied the game seconds later. Elizabeth Tuccinardi’s three sparked a Wolpack 10-0 run to lead at the end of the first period, 14-8, a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
The Tritons fought back with a 17-11 second quarter. Their effort brought the game to within one point 24-23, but a Cheldon Alcantara jump shot and an Abby Welch free throw put the Wolfpack up 27-24 at halftime.
Both teams combined for 37 free throw attempts in the first half in the high-paced foul-laden game. Great Oak hit on 11-of-16, San Clemente on 13-of-23. Degree was held to two baskets, but hit seven free throws to lead all scorers with 11 points in the half. “We pride ourselves on free throws,” said Maurice. “Free throws and defense win games.”
Rustamzada and Williams started the third quarter for the Wolfpack and made up for lost time, scoring eighteen combined points in the third quarter. “We have great chemistry together,” said Rustamzada who assisted on three of Williams’ field goals in the quarter. “She can finish on any pass I give her. She makes me look good.” The 20-14 quarter ended with back-to-back blocks by Rustamzada and Tuccinardi.
Alcantara opened up the final period with a fast-break lay-up putting the Wolfpack up by ten. They ended the game with a 19-point win.
Williams tallied 23 points; Rustamzada had 19; Alcantara contributed 11. Maurice cited the off-the-bench play of Deja Burnside and Samantha Gonzales (8 points, six rebounds, three steals, two blocks) as being critical to the victory.
Great Oak (22-3) will face #5 Bishop Amat Lancers (22-7) in the Sweet Sixteen round. Bishop Amat rallied from a 31-25 deficit to win 44-33 over Arcadia.