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Without a doubt, the pressure got to the Trinity Classical Academy girls basketball team inWednesday’sCIF-Southern Section Division 5A quarterfinal.

Not the pressure of the moment, mind you; rather, it was the pressure of a relentless Bellarmine-Jefferson of Burbank defense that did in the Knights in their 44-23 defeat at The Master’s University.

The Guards (23-3) used a frenetic, active defensive display to block off passing lanes and force Trinity ball handlers into uncomfortable positions from nearly the tip.

The first half was marked by a young Knights team repeatedly attempting to dribble through the Guards’ full-court press to disastrous results.

“That was a big problem,” said first-year Knights coach Daniel Hebert. “We weren’t getting to where we were supposed to be. We kind of panicked because (Bell-Jeff) was athletic.”

And once Bell-Jeff really got going, turnover after turnover began to turn into point after point.<

After scoring the game’s first two baskets, the Knights (14-9) found themselves on the wrong side of a 27-0 Bell-Jeff run to close the half with a 27-4 deficit.

“We expected them to play tough,” said senior Taylor Oshiro. “We weren’t 100 percent prepared for how aggressive their press was.”

In the front-court, the Knights struggled with Guards center Claire Borot, who blocked five shots on the night and pulled down 17 rebounds.

“Thank the Lord upstairs for our defense,” said Bell-Jeff coach Claudia Villa. “We played horrible (on offense), and if it wasn’t for our defense, we wouldn’t have scored as many points as we did.”

Trinity regrouped at halftime and began to swing the ball around in the backcourt to counteract the Guards’ press.

The effort paid dividends, as the Knights outscored Bell-Jeff 19-17 in the second half.

Oshiro led the Knights with 12 points, while Hannah Caddow had 13 rebounds.

Part of their halftime speech centered on a midseason adjustment the team made – more in attitude than fundamentals.

“We changed our definition of success from winning games to playing as hard as we can,” Oshiro said.

After a string of early league defeats, Hebert brought his team together for a practice-long meeting where he told the team to measure success by fun and hard work, and not only by the scoreboard.

After that conversation, the Knights went 6-1 down the stretch before Wednesday’s defeat and, they expect, built a foundation for the Knights’ future under Hebert.

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