BURBANK — With size inside, speed on the perimeter and, well, overall talent all to its advantage, the Bellarmine-Jefferson High boys' basketball team had little trouble getting past its first-round opponent, Mammoth, Wednesday evening.
The second-seeded Guards defeated the visiting Huskies, 81-34, to advance to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A playoffs. The tilt with Mammoth at Bell-Jeff High was one that saw the Guards leading wire-to-wire en route to cruising to the victory.
"We came into it wanting to play hard and play good defense," said Bell-Jeff Coach Julian Andrade, who guided the Guards to a 16-10 record in the regular season and second-place finish in the Santa Fe League. "Our mindset is that our defense is going to have to be there if we're going to advance forth and hopefully move on all the way to our ultimate goal."
The Guards (17-10) wasted little time in setting the tone on both ends, fueled by their suffocating defense that overwhelmed the Huskies throughout the contest and using a clear size advantage to control the glass and play an inside-out game — one in which the team executed with little resistance.
Abid Oses played a stellar game as the focal point of the Guards offense, leading the squad with 24 points and proving to be a factor on both ends of the court. Bell-Jeff point guard Isaac Etter followed up with 12 points, including two from behind the arc that were the beneficiary of Mammoth sending a second defender on Oses and Clark Thomas, who added 11 points.
"We wanted to keep the ball inside," Oses said. "When they closed out, we'd kick the ball out to our shooters. They shot the ball well and really helped me out.
"We played hard and played pretty good defense. Our offense comes from our defense."
Oses put in 16 of his game-high 24 in a first half the Guards closed out with a 31-point advantage. The dominance inside resulted in 16 second-chance points through the first two quarters of play and near 50% shooting (20-42). Etter and Thomas combined for 19 first-half points.
Etter's eight points in the first quarter sparked a 22-9 frame and the lead never decreased thereafter, with Bell-Jeff scoring nine of the first 11 points in the second quarter. From there, the outcome was never in question.
"Oses and Thomas have been doing it all year," Andrade said. "And with Isaac on the outside, you really have to pick your poison."
Oses showed his quickness and tenacity in the early stages of the third quarter with two steals resulting from a full-court press that led to a pair of buckets for him and Miles Hopkins (seven points). Bell-Jeff led by as many as 50 points in the game and the margin did not dip below 30 in the second half for the Guards, who will ride the momentum into the second round.
Andrade was able to sit his starters midway through the third quarter and will look for a similar balanced offense on Friday, when the Guards take on the Arrowhead League's Sherman Indian (12-7) or 15th-seeded Mesa Grande Academy (11-10) from the Victory League.