Although they’re on opposing sides, both coaches involved in tonight’s Academic Athletic Association-San Francisco Section girls’ championship basketball game came to the same conclusion — Galileo is desperately seeking a program-defining win against Lowell.
Galileo’s senior-laden roster has put together another stellar season, winning 18 games and posting a 9-1 record in league play. However, the Lions haven’t won a city title since 1981, and their foe on Friday has dominated the AAA in recent years.
“Winning the city title would definitely mean a lot — not just to all the seniors on this team who have worked so hard, but also for the school in general,” said Lions coach Jeremy Lee, whose squad defeated Marshall 63-47 in the AAA semifinals. “It’s been a long time since the girls have won a AAA title, so I think everyone at Galileo is really pulling for us on this one.”
Conversely, success has been no stranger at Lowell, where the Cardinals have won the past four city titles. Coach Aki Kuwada’s team racked up 21 wins this year on the way to an undefeated run in league play, which included a 44-26 rout of Galileo on Jan. 29. Despite that victory, and a win against Galileo in last year’s AAA title game, Kuwada is cautioning his team not to be overconfident.
“I’ve told my girls that they’re going to play against a Galileo team that is very, very hungry,” Kuwada said. “They’ve got a bunch of seniors who’ve been around for a long time, and they know what to do to win. I think it’s going to be a very close game.”
Lee said that defensive rebounding and limiting turnovers will be key for Galileo if it hopes to compete against Lowell. The Cardinals’ defense harassed the normally composed Lions into a huge number of turnovers in the January game. The Lions, who have seven seniors on their roster, should be better equipped to handle that pressure, said Lee.
“I think we learned a lot from that game,” he said. “We know we have to take care of the ball, and we know if we’re going to score, we have to penetrate their defense and kick out to open shooters.”
Kuwada said he’s watched the tape of the teams’ January meeting “dozens of times,” and noted that Galileo missed a lot of uncontested shots it normally knocks down.
With the score expected to be much closer for the title game, Kuwada said his team will rely heavily on senior guard Kelly Wong, who flirted with a triple-double by posting eight points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in Lowell’s 66-43 win against Burton in the AAA semifinals.
“I went up to her in practice and told us she might need to carry us,” Kuwada said. “They’re going to come out fired up for this one. We need to make sure we’re ready.”