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Girls basketabll: Different paths end in same place
One team was supposed to be in rebuilding mode. Another had never won a CIF-SS championship. And the third has a student body comprised of just 92 teenagers.
As unlikely and as singular as their journeys were in getting to championship weekend, Orange Lutheran, Fairmont Prep and Orangewood Academy were suddenly connected when they finished as the county schools to capture CIF-SS girls basketball crowns this past weekend.
“To think how young we were, and still are, maybe sometimes it was a good thing,” Lancers coach Tom Howard said of his squad’s youth.
With minimal varsity experience to go along with just one senior, Brooke Hutto, on the roster, no one expected Orange Lutheran to play late into February, and certainly not into March. But the Lancers were celebrating at Godinez High on Friday night, hoisting Hutto on their shoulders while she raised the 3A championship plaque.
“You come in and just play (when you’re young),” Howard continued. “Maybe that takes away some of the nerves. I don’t know. I stopped trying to figure out girls a long time ago.”
Earlier in the day, Fairmont Prep was equally as enthused when it got past St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs. It wasn’t a surprise the Huskies advanced to the 4A finals. They had been in the same position a year ago, but came away empty-handed after losing a late lead.
There was never any doubt this go-round, as Fairmont cruised to a 24-point win and claimed the school’s first CIF team championship.
“We left here on the wrong side of the result (last year),” Huskies coach David Esparza said. “That was just motivation for us to not take anything for granted. … We bought into helping your teammates get better. And we’ve gotten better and seemed to peak at just the right time.”
Orangewood Academy gave the San Joaquin League two title winners when it finished atop the 5AA bracket on Saturday night. For Coach Leslie Aragon’s team, that’s two CIF championships in four seasons.
Not bad for a program whose girls team accounts for over 10 percent of the school’s total enrollment.
Regional and State Playoffs
Eight of the county’s top-10 teams had their seasons extended Sunday when the CIF released the brackets for the regional playoffs.
Troy and Foothill were the only teams in the top 10 not selected for the regionals, primarily because the Division 1 bracket is loaded with sectional champs and teams that competed in the CIF-SS Open Division.
Corona del Mar (22-8) is the lone team not ranked in the county top 10 selected to play in the regionals. The Sea Kings made it to the semifinals in 3AA.
CdM joins Brea Olinda, El Dorado, Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita in the Division III bracket. Because the Ladycats are the division’s top-seeded team, they were also awarded a first-round bye and won’t play until Saturday night.
The bracket’s other four county representatives will open play Wednesday, and being the higher seed in their respective matchups, all of the locals will play at home.
If home-court advantage holds true, second-round games would pit CdM against Orange Lutheran and El Dorado against Santa Margarita on Saturday.
In the Open Division, Mater Dei and Chaminade of West Hills are on course for a third meeting. If the Monarchs and Eagles get past the first two rounds of the regionals, they would play March 21 in the regional finals, with the winner getting a spot in the state championship.
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