WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL — As he warmed up on Thursday for a San Francisco Section playoff game against Galileo, senior Washington guard Jackie Luong — a 39-percent 3-point shooter on the season —didn’t feel right. More specifically, his 3-point shot felt off.
When the Eagles tipped off against the Lions, Luong missed his first three from beyond the arc. Galileo had been a mystery for Washington this season. In their first meeting, Washington managed to down Galileo by eight points, but in their last meeting on the Eagles’ home court, but they barely edged the Lions, 76-74 in overtime.
“With Galileo, it’s tough to prepare for them,” said Washington head coach Jolinko Lassiter. “On film, you see one defense, but when they play us, they do things that are different.”
On Thursday, Galileo’s defense once again frustrated Luong and Washington. In the first quarter, they shot just 4-for-14, and trailed 13-10. Then, Luong began to find his stroke. He hit four of his next eight shots, scored 21 points and pulled down five rebounds, and the Eagles went on an 18-8 run and ran away with a 74-50 win.
“Jackie is such a threat offensively that they want to make sure that they have a body on him at all times, so they kind of try to disguise their defenses,” Lassiter said. “It’s a little bit tricky for us. On film, you don’t see them do that with other teams, but with us, they’ve done that a couple times. We kind of knew what to expect for the most part. It was just trying to figure it out so we’d know what to do.”
Washington (14-15) got out to an early 7-2 lead, but lost it just as quickly, as Lions point guard Luke Yoda notched seven points with an assist, three rebounds and tight defense in the first half.
Luong, though, responded by leading a pesky Eagles defensive effort, which posted six steals in the first half, including three by Luong, who picked a pass from Jimmie Edwards to Ryan Huong, which resulted in a put-back for Da’Jon Aranas that put the Eagles up 25-18 with 1:58 to go in the first half. Aranas — who finished with 16 points — then hit an and-one.
“We got great shot selection, and we didn’t force nothing,” Luong said. “Our guys stay composed.”
Luong hit a crossover to lead to a lay-up and then a one-handed lay-up in the lane to up the lead to 30-20.
“Jackie is a high-IQ player, so he understands, especially when he’s getting face-guarded, what he sees out there,” Lassiter said. “He helps out a lot, just helping the team understand what defense we think they’re in.”
Luong started the second half with a jumper and then a three, touching off an 11-3 run. After missing his first three from beyond the arc, he hit two of his next three.
“They threw us off with a lot of different defenses, so we had to figure it out,” Luong said. “Once we figured it out, it was all good from there. We just got used to it. We put me in the middle when we ran our zone break, so it worked out. Everyone spaced out and knocked down shots.”
Galileo committed a series of unforced turnovers and over the next three minutes, saw the Eagles go on another run, this one 9-3, and by the end of the third quarter, Washington held a comfortable 50-33 lead. The Eagles’ reserves played most of the fourth quarter, and Yoda would score only four points after halftime to finish with 11, while Huong led the Lions with 12.
“Defensively, we did a great job on the glass, and that fed into our transition game, and we got some easy buckets out of that, and that carried over onto the defensive side,” Lassiter said. “Once we settle down and play good defense, focus is up, and we’re able to go out there and have more energy on both ends of the floor.”
Washington moves on to the second round of the San Francisco Section playoffs, with a date on Wednesday against Lincoln, which beat the Eagles 76-62 on Feb. 7 and 69-59 on Jan. 16. In that game, the Mustangs held Washington to 46 percent shooting, though Luong went 3-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc and scored 17 points, while notching a double-double thanks to 12 rebounds.
“We had two good games this year with them,” Lassiter said. “We’ve just got to find a way to handle their defensive pressure.”
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