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Defense leads to offense.

That’s a basketball coach’s mantra.

And Righetti High coach Desiree Hitch’s Warriors took that lesson to heart Saturday night in a CIF Southern Section Division 2A girls basketball playoff game against the Duarte Falcons (17-12).

The Warriors used a smothering full-court defense to frustrate Duarte 69-35 in a second-round game at Warriors Gym.

The Warriors  (25-1), the No. 2 seed in the division, shut down the tallest player they’ve faced this year – 6-foot-7 senior center Patricia Morris –  holding her to four first-half points while Righetti raced out to a 42-14 halftime lead.

Morris finished the game with 19 points but nine of them came from the foul line when the game was out of reach.

“We wanted to front their post,” said Hitch. “We wanted to put as much pressure on No. 32 (Morris) as we could. If she didn’t have the ball, they couldn’t score. Ashley Reynoso did a really good job on their center.”

“We made it very hard on ourselves,” said Duarte coach Beverly Ball-Powell. “Our offense revolves around Patricia. When she’s successful, we’re successful. When she’s not, we’re not. We gave it a good run.”

Zane Sheckherd led Righetti with 21 points – 18 in the first half.

Mercedes Arredondo had 12 points, Alijah Paquet nine and Reynoso eight for Righetti.

Sheckherd found the way to overcome the Duarte center’s height, nailing a 3-point shot from the top left of the key to get the Warriors off to a fast start.

After Duarte’s Mae’Lazia Denham hit driving layup, Sheckherd came back and hit another 3 from the same spot to give Righetti an early 6-2 lead – a lead they would never give up.

Ball-Powell called an immediate time out to settle her troops just two-minutes into the game.

Righetti came out of the time out with a full court press and immediately tipped the ball away, sending it out of bounds and back to Duarte.

“The press was our game plan,” said Hitch. “If they couldn’t get the ball past midcourt, they can’t score. I had the girls focus on the press. When they did get into their front court, they were low on time and had to rush their shots.”

Duarte worked the ball around and found point guard Delaney Thompson who drove in for an easy layup.

That cut Righetti’s lead to 6-4 and that was as close as the Falcons would get the rest of the way.

Time and again, the Warriors forced erratic passes or stole the ball.

And despite Morris’ height advantage, Righetti was dominant on the boards.

Righetti went on a 6-0 run before a double-teamed Morris went in for a layup.

Righetti went on another 6-0 run before Morris scored her only other first half basket.

Righetti’s Malia Cabigon hit a short jumper just before the end of the quarter, putting the Warriors up 20-8 after the first quarter.

Righetti outscored Duarte 22-6 in the second quarter, holding Morris scoreless while going on a 6-0 run, followed by a 5-0 run and then closing the half with an 8-0 run and a 42-12 halftime lead.

Righetti battled foul trouble in the second half but was still able to outscore Duarte 12-9 in the third quarter and 15-12 in the fourth.

“The girls did a really good job,” said Hitch. “I have a lot of girls that can score. We have good inside players.”

Righetti is on the road for Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchup at Fontana Summit, which beat Dana Hills 64-49 Saturday night. Summit is 22-6 on the season and went 10-0 in the Sunkist League to claim that league title. 

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Senior Sports Reporter