Not having played a game since December 11, where the Polar Bears were humbled by Long Beach Cabrillo in a 62-31 defeat, POLA began the Firebaugh Tournament the day after New Year's Day, and came out of the tournament with a third place trophy... and they took down San Pedro-neighbor Mary Star to do it.
After a slow start where Mary Star jumped out to an 8-2 lead, POLA would counter with a 20-1 run that carried into the second quarter that not only turned the tide, it gave the Polar Bears complete control of the contest on the way to a 55-32 victory over the Stars, clinching the third place finish at Firebaugh High, and allowing them to get some sort of retribution when it comes to neighboring battles.
POLA (7-3 overall) lost 56-38 to their CIF-Los Angeles City Section 'big sisters' from San Pedro High in a nonleague game back on December 9.
"That loss hurt us in a way, but to us it was just another game," POLA senior forward Angela Wade said in reference to their inaugural battle with San Pedro that handed the Polar Bears their first loss of the season. "We just came out and played our hardest (against Mary Star)."
That's a good way of putting it, because Wade and fellow senior forward Alex Espinoza would not let the Polar Bears lose.
A young Mary Star team that started three freshmen would seemingly wake up POLA with a strong 8-2 run to open the game, highlighted by six points from freshman guard Angela Pisano, who had scored a career-high 33 points in the Stars' previous game, a 47-43 loss to Paramount. Espinoza, who normally starts for POLA, came off the bench and provided a big lift with six points during the Polar Bears' dominant 20-1 spurt that carried into the second quarter.
"We all came together once we were down early," Espinoza said. "We basically turned it up on defense and went on from there."
Back-to-back three-pointers from freshman guard Kyerstin Galloway and Wade would push the Polar Bear lead up to as much as 17 points before holding a 32-18 halftime lead. By that time, Espinoza, Wade and Galloway combined to score 24 of POLA's first-half points to counter the 10 points at the half from Pisano.
The Polar Bears would take a lead as big as 55-28 before Pisano scored the last four points of the game.
Wade would make it her game in the second half by scoring 18 of her game-high 25 points, also finishing with 12 rebounds and five steals in being named to the all-tournament team. Espinoza also finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds for POLA, who will continue their season with a nonleague game against Central City Value of Los Angeles for their home debut on Friday at Peck Park.
Galloway would finish with 8 points, five assists, and three steals for POLA, and freshman guard Mariam Moreno would score seven points off the bench.
Pisano, who averaged 23.5 points per game for Mary Star in the tournament, would also be named to the all-tournament team after leading the Stars (5-7) with 18 points and seven steals. Senior forward Brina Garcia and freshman guard Amanda Vitalich were Mary Star's next two high scorers with four points each, but freshman forward Kaitlyn Martinez, although she didn't score, still contributed with five rebounds and four blocks.
Mary Star continues its season on Monday at home with a nonleague game against Malibu.