Caia Trimble of Santa Barbara pulls up to shoot over Kiani Rojas of San Marcos. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

The plan was working well for the San Marcos girls basketball team in the first half of Thursday’s Channel League game at rival Santa Barbara High.

The Royals were patient running their offense, took good shots, crashed the boards and never got rattled when the Dons opened up a 10-point lead in the second quarter. In fact, they responded with a 9-0 run to trail by one at halftime.

The second half, however, was a different story as Santa Barbara’s defense took over the game and led the Dons to a 50-35 victory at J.R. Richards Gym.

Santa Barbara went exclusively to a man defense and shut down the Royals, holding them to just seven points in the final two quarters.

“We couldn’t find the basket and, honestly, that’s the first time anyone has manned us all season,” said San Marcos coach Aaron Solis. “This is our 18th game and there’s been a couple of times teams have done that. But for a serious man-to-man defense, this is the first time anyone’s done it all season long.”

Down 29-28, the Royals didn’t score their first basket of the second half until the 4:42 mark of the third period.

Fortunately for San Marcos, Santa Barbara was having a rough night shooting, which kept the Royals close at 39-32 by the end of the third.

“We still got some good shots out of it, we just didn’t get anything to fall,” said Solis.

Santa Barbara started to pull away early in the fourth quarter as it scored seven unanswered point to go up 46-32. Athena Saragoza started the run with a three-pointer, Maya Banks drove for two and Saragoza knocked down a pair of free throws before Kiani Rojas made one of two free throws to end the San Marcos drought.

Santa Barbara played solid man defense in the second half against San Marcos.

— NoozhawkSports (@NoozhawkSports) January 10, 2020

“Our man (defense) saved us and, in the second half, we rebounded,” Santa Barbara coach Andrew Butcher said. “We started hitting a few short shots and we started to not lose their shooters. That was the difference.”

Butcher pointed to Caia Trimble’s defense on Rojas in the second half as a key. The San Marcos sharpshooter hit a pair of treys and a long two-pointer in the first half but made just the one  free throw in the second half.

Poehler, who was guarded by several Dons, was held to one basket in the second half after knocking down a trio of three-pointers in the first half.

Poehler led the Royals (14-4 0-2) with 13 points and Rojas added nine.

Solis gave Ashley Day and Fran Pereira props for their hard work at both ends of the floor.

“This is an awesome group to coach because you look at Ashley Day and Fran and the tenacity they put out. They played their guts out.”

Saragoza scored 17 points and Trimble had 15 to lead Santa Barbara (8-8, 2-0). Jaeda Spence had eight points and nine rebounds, and Banks grabbed eight boards to go with four points.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.