PASADENA - A simple second-quarter adjustment turned the tide of what was a close girls basketball contest Thursday afternoon as Westridge hosted Rio Hondo Prep in an early Prep League showdown.
Westridge was up 16-14 with three minutes remaining in the second quarter when the Tigers changed up their defense from zone to man-to-man.
The result was a crucial 16-0 run over the next eight minutes that led to a 42-29 victory for the Tigers.
"I thought our team defense was pretty aggressive after the switch," Tigers coach Melanie Horn said. "I thought the girls did an excellent job controlling the middle and didn't allow Rio Hondo Prep many easy looks."
The Tigers' trio of 6-foot-2 Alexandra Barnardo, 5-10 Allison Clark and 5-9 Kathryn Mgrublian combined for 10 block shots and neutralized the Kares (10-3, 1-1) in the paint.
Trailing 16-8 with 5:07 remaining in the second quarter, the Kares staged a mini rally. A couple of Jessica Horton free throws, followed by consecutive Marianna Gamez buckets, put Rio Hondo Prep down only 16-14 with 3:40 remaining before the end of the first half.
The six-point swing prompted a timeout by Horn and the Tigers' eventual change in defensive philosophy.
"For (its) small size, Rio Hondo Prep rebounds well and plays hard," Clark said. "They were able to get some shots in against our zone which is why I think we needed to change."
While Clark's shot-blocking ability and overall size were a detriment to the Kares offense, the senior's scoring also was pivotal.
Clark scored eight of her team's points during the Tigers' 16-0 run that was capped on the senior's layup with 3:01 left in the third quarter. What was once a slim Tigers two-point advantage ballooned to a 32-14 lead.
"Our offense really took off in the third quarter," said Clark, who finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. "But as good as we played offensively, our defense was better."
Overall, the Star-News' No. 8 ranked Tigers (9-1, 3-0) scored 16 points in the third quarter, while the Kares had five points.
Westridge held No. 9 Rio Hondo Prep to eight or fewer points in three of four quarters.
The Kares did not help their own cause by committing 24 turnovers while shooting 3 for 9 from the free-throw line. Rio Hondo Prep also shot 26 percent (12 for 47) from the field.
"Westridge's height was the main factor in the game," Prep coach Joe Parker said. "We had trouble getting the ball inside, getting rebounds."
The Kares were paced by Gamez, who scored a team-high 14 points.