The Port Of Los Angeles High girls basketball team came into their nonleague game against neighbor San Pedro with a hot 4-0 start and had every intention to show the Lady Pirates that they have arrived.
Junior guard Rita Fiorenza and senior forward Cheyenne Alvarez had other plans.
The All-Marine League duo would come out of the blocks with solid performances, while Fiorenza was almost unstoppable in leading the host Pirates to a 56-38 victory, knocking the Polar Bears down to earth, and handing them a bitter first defeat as a result.
Fiorenza took control in all phases, starting out of the gate with 11 first-quarter points, finishing with a game-high 26 points to lead the way for San Pedro (2-3 overall), who was coming off a rough beginning to their season in the Downey Tournament. The three-year veteran also added nine steals, five assists and four rebounds while Alvarez scored 10 for the Pirates, who were determined to not let POLA come out of their gymnasium victorious.
"POLA thought that they could beat us, we needed to show them they couldn't," said Alvarez, who also had four steals for San Pedro. "We came in with a great attitude, passed the ball very well. It was a great team win for us."
Only once did San Pedro trail the whole night, and that was 3-2 on a three-pointer by POLA senior forward Angela Wade during the opening minute of the first quarter, but Fiorenza's first basket that came seconds later led to the Pirates tightening up on their defense, not allowing a Polar Bear field goal for 13 minutes until freshman guard Kyerstin Galloway hit a jumper midway through the second period.
Behind Fiorenza's strong first quarter, San Pedro would take a 19-7 lead, and would increase that margin on the opening basket of the second quarter, a three-pointer by junior G/F Emily Iacono. From there, the Polar Bears (4-1) would chip away at the lead and outscore the Pirates, 15-6 for the remainder of the quarter to only trail 28-22 at halftime thanks to three-pointers from Wade and senior guard Aubree Ponce.
San Pedro would go on a 7-0 run to start the third quarter on a Fiorenza three-pointer, and back-to-back baskets from senior forward Rayanna McDowell, but POLA kept on coming as Galloway, the Downey Calvary Chapel Tournament MVP, began to find her scoring touch.
POLA would get as close as 42-34 early in the fourth quarter, but not much closer as the Pirates pulled away behind Fiorenza's final three baskets, a layup by senior forward Alejandra Macias and two key mid-range jumpers from Alvarez to seal the deal.
"We really worked well together tonight," Fiorenza said. "Most of my shots were open so I felt if we got a good start early, we would come out with the win."
McDowell scored 7 points for San Pedro, and freshman guard Deanna Valverde added 6 points. Wade led POLA with 14 points, and Galloway scored 13. Ponce scored 5 off the bench, and senior forward Alex Espinoza had 4 points and 8 rebounds for the Polar Bears, who next travel to face Cabrillo of Long Beach on Wednesday.
San Pedro hosts Panorama of Panorama City on Wednesday.