A second-half surge fueled the Hart Indians girls’ basketball team to victory on Saturday in its home Division 2AA playoff matchup with the Bonita Bearcats.
Hart dug itself an early hole but fought back to win the game, 55-46.
The Indians (26-3) were led by senior Laney Grider, who tallied a game-high 17 points along with six rebounds, three steals and a block.
Bonita (17-13) led 28-27 at halftime, thanks to its pass-happy offense. The Bearcats shared the ball well but most of the points came from senior Amore Mason. The Bonita senior scored all 12 of her points in the first half, forcing Hart head coach Jerry Mike to make adjustments.
“We put Laney on [Mason] because she was killing us in the first half,” Mike said. “We definitely did a better job. Arleigh’s defensive pressure on the guards was good and got them out of their rhythm. Everybody kind of buckled down on D and our defense was definitely much better.”
Grider played a big part in clogging passing lanes and shut Mason out in the second half.
“It’s funny, at halftime, we realized we’re like, this could be it,” Grider said. “This could be the end and no one wanted that. We all came out in the second half and obviously we were fighting for it. We were getting up to loose balls after rebounds. So, I think we realized it either ends here, or we keep going and that’s kind of what pushed us forward.”
Junior Arleigh Eav played tight defense on the Bonita backcourt, adding nine points and three steals. Senior Vanessa Zavala hit some big shots and made some clutch defensive plays in the second half.
“We’re a third and fourth quarter team,” Zavala said. “That’s when we come out and shine. Our first and second quarters are the quarters where we warm up. We’re really good at closing out the game and finishing strong.”
Zavala added 12 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block. The center iced the game for Hart with a clutch offensive rebound in the final minute of play to force the Bearcats into the foul game.
The Bearcat offense slowed down in the second half and was held to just six points in the final quarter. Junior Nicole Uballe scored 13 points for Bonita, while teammate Serenity Henderson added 12 points.
Hart saw total symmetry as nearly every starter scored in double-digits, while adding solid rebounding and two steals each.
“We all have the same talent but different skill sets,” Grider said. “That’s what causes us to be able to flow and work. We’re all best friends outside of basketball too so it’s nice because we have chemistry. We just like to work on the court and get the ball moving. It’s just hard to beat us.”
It was a long wait for Hart, after the team received a first-round bye. The Indians were thrilled to be back in the playoffs and advance to quarterfinals yet again.
“We were super duper ready and we were so excited,” Zavala said. “It’s all we’ve been talking about at practice and everything. We were kind of antsy because we had a whole week of practice.”
Bonita’s season was cut-short but the Bearcats will likely be a serious contender next season. The team will graduate just one key player and retain the bulk of its corps, including freshman duo Tressa Beatty and Brooke Van Duyne.
The Indians have championship aspirations but will have to go through another Vikings team in the process.
Hart returns to the CIF semifinals on Wednesday in a 7 p.m. home matchup with the Santa Monica Vikings (20-10).
“Honestly, it feels amazing,” Zavala said. “I think we’re gonna go far. We’re going to go farther than last year. I think us being so close makes things easier.”