By Jeremy Balan
As Academic Athletic Association favorites Lowell and Washington roll through the early league schedule, another contender may be lurking just under the surface.
That under-the-radar contender is Galileo Academy, which improved its league record to 4-1 with a 65-48 win over visiting Balboa on Thursday.
The Lions (9-7, 4-1) only led 31-30 at the half, but went on a 21-0 run to start the third quarter, and the Bucs (7-9, 4-2) missed their first 17 shots from the floor before guard Malaysia Bassallo broke the streak with a 3-pointer with just 40 seconds remaining in the frame.
“They came out [of the half] fired up,” said Galileo head coach Don Papa. “I had a few words for them [in the locker room] and our seniors rose to the occasion.”
Leading the way for the Lions was senior forward Bianca Hussien, who had a team-high 17 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Hussien is the only senior who starts for the Lions, alongside four freshmen.
While Hussien ruled the inside, freshman guards Kim Fung and Cassady Chan controlled the perimeter, scoring 15 and 11 points respectively, along with leading a smothering full-court press that forced 23 Balboa turnovers.
“Those two girls make things happen,” Papa said. “The press helped us a lot and it really took them out of their rhythm.”
The Lions went on their own cold streak in the second quarter, missing their first 16 shots from the floor to start the frame, but the Bucs could not capitalize, allowing Galileo to retake the lead right before the half.
Balboa was led by the sophomore Bassallo, who had a game-high 26 points, including an impressive shooting display in the second quarter, where she scored the Bucs first 10 points of the frame.
But even Bassallo went through an extended shooting drought in the second half, and the Bucs shot just over 12 percent from the field in the second half and 24 percent in the game.
Both teams figure to make the postseason from their respective divisions, but if the Lions continue to win, they may begin to draw the attention of the league’s established powers.
“It was a very good win,” Papa said. “We’ll just do our best to measure up [against the rest of the league]. It’s all about building.”
Balboa head coach Keith Smith was not available for comment after the game.
Bianca Hussien – 17
Kim Fung -15
Cassady Chan – 11
Francine Talapian – 6
Jane Gunn – 5
Malaysia Bassallo – 26
Yarnel Evangelista – 9
Chanel Malone – 4
Esmeralda Cabrera – 3
Three players tied with 2 points