The Righetti Warriors face their toughest test of the season Saturday night when they host the Downey Vikings in the CIF Southern Section Division 2A girls basketball semifinals.
But before taking that test, the Warriors had to do their homework.
And that’s just what they did before hitting the court for Friday’s final practice session ahead of Saturday’s big game.
“We just studied film from Downey’s last game (a 61-47 home victory over San Bernardino Arroyo Valley in Wednesday night’s quarterfinals),” said Righetti senior forward Kendall Bagby as Friday’s on-court practice began. “But I think as long as we push the ball up-court and get layups, we’ll be alright.”
“I think we have a little advantage because we’re way taller than them but they have really good guards,” said Righetti junior guard Alijah Paquet. “They can drive and shoot, so we just have to play good defense.”
The Vikings do have some size.
Their starting center is 6-foot-2 junior Alyssa Nevarez, who has been averaging about 6 points per game.
But their top scorers are all 5-foot-6 or 5-foot-7 guards.
“They have five or six girls who score consistently,” said Righetti coach Desiree Hitch. “But I think we should do well. We just have to play our game, use our size.”
Downey’s leader is 5-foot-6 sophomore Ilana Avila, who is averaging 11 points per game.
Freshman Rachel Spinosa (10 point average), junior Surie Camacho (8 points) and senior Priscilla Arencibia (7.5 points) follow Avila in scoring. All three are 5-foot-7 guards.
By rotating the four guards, Downey can keep fresh legs on the floor the entire game.
“They’re quick, they press. They run two different types of zone defenses,” said Hitch. “They are not as physical as Summit (the team Righetti defeated on the road in Wednesday’s quarterfinals) but they’re faster.”
Downey (24-5) is the division’s No. 3 seed.
The Vikings finished second to Lynwood in the tough San Gabriel Valley League with an 8-2 league record. Both league losses were to Lynwood.
Lynwood (20-6, 10-0) is also still alive in the playoffs. They’re also a No. 3 seed but in Division 2AA, the next division down from 2A, where they’ll visit Aliso Niguel in Saturday’s semis.
“I think Downey’s defense is sort of the same type of pressure defense that Summit played,” said Hitch. “A lot of teams press us and run zones against us. We run a similar press in practice every day so I think we’ll be okay. Once we break their press, we can slow it down and get into our set offense.”
Righetti (26-1) is the Division’s No. 2 seed.
The Warriors are led by 6-foot-0 senior Zane Sheckherd who averages about 18 points a game.
Sheckherd will jump at center to open the game but will immediately transition to shooting guard.
She’s joined in the backcourt by 5-foot-4 point guard Mercedes Arredondo.
Sheckherd and Arredondo torched Summit for 20 and 19 points, respectively.
The Warriors play a three-guard offense with 5-foot-7 junior Alijah Paquet in the starting lineup. Paquet scored 10 points against Summit which included two key 3-point baskets; the second coming early in the Warriors’ 18-3 game-ending run that turned a 45-42 deficit into a 60-48 victory.
“At the beginning of the (Summit) game, our shots weren’t falling but then coach Hitch told us it’s not going to work if we just keep shooting 3s so we started driving and they started getting in foul trouble. Then their intensity changed so then we just kept building our lead,” said Paquet. “In this game, I think if we play like we normally play — tough defense and don’t back down — then we’ll be fine.”
Ashley Reynoso and Bagby, starting at forward, round our Righetti's starting five.
With time running down in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game, Righetti went on a 12-0 run that forced a Summit time out.
The home crowd began a loud “SkyHawks” chant.
But Righetti supporters filled the visitors’ stands and answered back with their own deafening “Warriors” chant.
“We feed off the crowd’s energy — even when we’re on the road,” said Sheckherd before facing Summit.
This time, Righetti fans won’t have to make a 210 mile trip and the Warriors are expecting a boost from their enthusiastic fans.
“Our crowd really helps us, especially when we are on defense and they keep yelling at the other team and they get in their heads and it kind of throws them off and helps us out,” said Paquet.
“We have excellent support at Summit from our parents, friends and fans. I know our crowd Saturday night is going to be really loud. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage,” said Hitch. “Downey is our biggest challenge yet. We have our work cut out for us.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.