Smooth sailing for Marina Vikings in girls’ basketball playoff opener

It is an entirely different feeling that surrounds the Marina girls’ basketball team this postseason.

Marina, the runner-up in the CIF State Division V final last season, hardly surprises itself anymore.

A confidence born out of a defensive-minded, pressuring style of play, along with the continued rise of star sophomore guard Rylee Bradley, give the Vikings a great deal of belief.

Throw in a 26-point quarter, and you have a runaway train, and that is what the Vikings resembled on Thursday night to begin the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs.

Bradley scored a game-high 23 points, and Marina cruised to a 61-29 win over Norwalk in its playoff opener.

“I told the girls after walking in the locker room, ‘If we can score 26 points every first quarter, it will make things a lot easier for us,’” Marina coach Daniel Roussel said. “But that’s not who we are. We are a defensive-based team, and tonight it was really our defense that created that for us. We made a couple of shots early, too, a couple of threes early that helped with that.

Marina (21-8), the undefeated Wave League champion, has won nine consecutive games heading into its second-round game on Saturday. The Vikings will play at No. 2-seeded Canyon (18-11), a 70-20 winner over Avalon on Friday afternoon.

As has been their calling card, the Vikings’ caused chaos for Norwalk (13-16) and its ball-handlers, producing 19 steals that led to myriad fastbreak opportunities. Maria Tejeda led Marina with five steals, while Bradley totaled four takeaways, and Lalla Amin and Haley Nguyen each had three steals.

“We’ve been talking for a while [about] starting every quarter strong because we tend to have our second-quarter downfall,” said junior forward Sydnie Smith, who had eight points and five rebounds. “Starting out with strong defense is what we do as a team, so running our offense from our defense helps all of us push the ball.”

With a commanding 42-16 lead at halftime, the Vikings were able to empty the bench and allow their reserves to contribute to begin their playoff run. The Vikings saw 10 players score a point in the contest.

Shelby Nguyen, who was called up from the junior varsity for the playoffs, scored her first varsity basket on a driving layup with five minutes left in the game. As the shot went in, a group of girls seated by the Vikings’ bench erupted. It was Marina’s frosh-soph team.

“It was a really good feeling,” said Nguyen, a freshman guard who also got to dribble out the clock to end the win. “Right after I scored, everyone was cheering.”

CIF Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs

First Round

Marina 61, Norwalk 29


Norwalk 10 – 6 – 5 – 8 — 29

Marina 26 – 16 – 13 – 6 — 61

N — McGarrah 9, M. Ruiz 8, Moreno 7, Rhean Pascual 4, Barrera 1.

3-pt. goals — McGarrah 2, Moreno 2.

Fouled out — None.

Technicals — None.

M — Bradley 23, Tejeda 10, Smith 8, Amin 7, H. Nguyen 4, Grasse 2, A. Nguyen 2, S. Nguyen 2, Phan 2, Tran 1.

3-pt. goals — Bradley 2, Tejeda 1, Amin 1.

Fouled out — None.

Technicals — None.

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