OXON HILL, Md. – When the JB Hoops girls basketball team absolutely has to have a stop, coach John Bucci knows where to turn.
With each subsequent possession growing in significance as JB Hoops completed a come-from-behind victory Sunday, Bucci repeatedly called on Morgan Haefele and Gracie Guarino for the defensive portion of the late-game offensive/defensive substitutions.
The lightning-quick penetrating guards that made the Nike CyFair Shooters seem practically unstoppable throughout long stretches of the game were suddenly contained as baskets became tougher for the Cypress, Tex. team find.
CyFair scored just once in the final 2:22 as JB Hoops completely a 52-50 victory that potentially could have a major impact on which teams advance from Pool GG at the USJN U17 National Championships.
“They understand angles,” said Bucci, who also praised Haefele and Guarino for committing to unselfish and hard work required to be a defensive stopper. “They understand how to beat people to spots.
“They knew those girls were not going to shoot pull-up jumpers and they didn’t step out of them too soon. They did a really good job.”
With CyFair in possession and looking to break a tie in the final 20 seconds, Haefele’s not only provided the defense that that forced a low-percentage, off-balance shot, but she also tracked down the rebound. The possession gained was the one JB Hoops used to produce the winning points off a Lexi Walsh offensive rebound.
“Usually when the game gets close, coach will put me in for some good defensive possessions,” said Haefele, who was used to being assigned to the opponent’s best player or best guard at Mid Valley, where she will be entering her junior year.
As she watches a close JB Hoops game unfold, it is not necessary for Haefele to ask, she knows she will be called on to stop the best guard.
Guarino comes in at the same time and takes another key defensive assignment, although the positions she is asked to guard may change. She analyzes opponents accordingly from the bench while waiting to be called upon.
“I guard anybody,” said Guarino, who in the 2016-17 school year became the first sophomore to earn Western Wayne’s Female Athlete of the Year Award. “I watch what hand players dribble with, whether they’re going right or left, how far out they play and what moves they make.”
Guarino knows about stopping opponents from scoring. Her Athlete of the Year Award is the result of not only being a first-team coaches choice for Lackawanna League Division 2 honors in basketball, but also being a first-team, all-star goalie during soccer season.
The stops Haefele and Guarino made Sunday helped put JB Hoops in serious contention to advance after the final day of pool play Monday.
JB Hoops was scheduled to be back on the court Monday at 9:10 a.m. against the Blue Crush from New Jersey and at 12:35 p.m. against the Northstars from Connecticut.