By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A taste of playoff basketball has Roseland University Prep hungry for another spot in the sectionals, and the Knights got off to a good start with Tuesday’s league-opening win.
Demonstrating the difficulty in defending speed, Roseland University Prep ran past Rincon Valley Christian, 55-35, and a stifling pressure defense also helped key the victory.
“We like to run. We like to beat teams down the court. Our passing was a lot better today,” said Beatriz Oseguera, one of the team’s quickest players.
Roseland Prep forced turnovers and snagged steals with a full-court press to spark a 14-0 run than spanned the close of the first quarter and the start of the second. Rincon Valley Christian trailed by eight at halftime. The Eagles didn’t get closer in the second half.
While the Knights are an experienced team with three returning starters, the Eagles are young and still learning how to come together on the court.
“We’re good at not giving up. We push each other,” said Kara Robinson, the lone starter back from Rincon Valley Christian’s section finals team last season. “We just have to play better as a team.”
The NCL II league opener showed Roseland Prep is ready to contend with St. Vincent for the league title. Extra practice before school and on Saturdays has the Knights playing with confidence.
After falling behind early, Roseland Prep tightened its defensive pressure.
Contesting dribblers and clogging passing lanes, the Knights bottled up Rincon Valley Christian’s offense when the Eagles managed to get the ball down court.
Leading the defense with pesky guard play were Liz Nunez and Elisa Silva.
Anchoring the low post were Stephanie Martinez and Oseguera.
Defensive intensity for a full four quarters has been the difference in coming away with victories.
“We started off a little slow. We’re trying to improve on not having breakdowns,” said Roseland Prep coach Laura Barcenas.
Scoring is another strength for Roseland Prep. With seven players reaching the score sheet Tuesday, the Knights are deep.
Not afraid to shoot the deep ball, the Knights also are solid down low. Martinez led Roseland Prep with 14 points on an assortment of fast breaks and post moves.
Oseguera added 10 points, including two 3-pointers.
“We’re comfortable as shooters. We don’t put our heads down when we miss,” Oseguera said.
Defensive energy also sparked the best stretches for Rincon Valley Christian, who were led by Robinson’s game-high 17 points.
The Eagles matched the Knights in scoring the second quarter and Robinson’s hot hand kept the contest within reach in the third. Iris Lin helped steady the guard play, allowing Robinson to work open closer to the basket.
“Every game we’re getting a little better,” Robinson said.
Active rebounding, particularly on the offensive end, and hustle fueled Roseland Prep’s final push.
Putting away games as they did Tuesday is an area where the Knights can improve, Barcenas said.
After the Roseland Prep girls reached the North Coast Section playoffs for the first time last season, the Knights want more. A league title and winning a section playoff are the Knights’ goals.
“This year we want that banner,” Oseguera said.