By Bonta Hill
Playing in its first state playoff game in the history of the girls basketball program, International High School looked like a group that had been there before.
The the eighth-seeded Jaguars pounced on visiting Portola High School early, scoring the game’s first nine points en route to a 71-25 blowout victory over the ninth-seeded Tigers in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation Division V state playoffs on Wednesday.
“We had a really good week of practice and still felt a little hurt from the loss [to St. Joseph Notre Dame in the North Coast Section championship game], but it turned into motivation,” said International head coach Charlene Murphy. “We know our season isn’t over until we lose and we don’t have that in sight.”
Portola (25-6), which is about 50 miles west of Reno, Nev. and plays in the Northern Section, struggled offensively all night, committed 35 turnovers and shot just 29 percent from the floor.
If the offensive struggles weren’t enough, the Tigers’ biggest problem was International’s “Big Three.”
International guards Shayna Mehta, Natalie Kelly and Denia Ebersole combined for 55 points.
“Like I said all along, we have three of the best guards in the City,” Murphy said. “We’re a small school and we don’t always get the respect and recognition for it, but they’re creating a name for themselves.”
International (22-10) forced 10 first-quarter turnovers, which the Jaguars turned into several fast-break points.
Mehta put an exclamation point on the opening quarter when she came up with a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup right before the buzzer, giving International a 21-5 lead. The freshman then scored the first eight points in the second frame.
Kelly, a sophomore, had six steals and scored nine points in the third quarter. The game went to a running clock in the fourth and International advanced easily to the second round.
“We don’t see a team that plays defense like that in our section,” said Portola head coach Matt Compton. “We don’t see this type of athleticism and quickness in our league. We were overmatched.”
Shayna Mehta – 21
Natalie Kelly – 20
Denia Ebersole – 14
Emilia Omerderg – 6
Cienna Gray – 4
Kaitlyn Boyd – 8
Lindsey Compton – 5
Casey Pearson – 5
Joannie Roach – 4
Marissa Wehrman – 2