Two years ago, La Quinta High School made its way to the playoff quarterfinals before losing by a point to Corona del Mar, 53-52. Corona del Mar went on to win the title.
Last year, the Aztecs went a step further, reaching the semifinals before being ousted by Indio, 51-31. Indio also went on to win the championship.
This year, La Quinta finally has made it to the finals, and tonight at the Long Beach Arena the Aztecs will be trying to win the Southern Section 2-A championship when they face San Luis Obispo at 5 p.m.
San Luis Obispo also came close a year ago. The Tigers reached the 3-A quarterfinals before falling to Fontana, which eventually won the title.
Top-seeded La Quinta brings an impressive 25-4 record into tonight's game, but San Luis Obispo is no pushover, having compiled a 24-3 record.
The Tigers' three losses--to Thousand Oaks, Oxnard and Lompoc--were by a total of only six points.
The Aztecs' four losses, meanwhile, all came in non-league games, the first and the worst at the hands of Brea-Olinda, 93-36. They also were beaten by Woodbridge, 43-39; Western, 57-47, and Millikan, 57-51.
En route to tonight's championship game, La Quinta defeated Buena Park, 51-48; Ganesha, 67-52; Lompoc in overtime, 51-48, in the quarterfinals, and Cajon in the semifinals, 50-33.
San Luis Obispo advanced to the final by beating La Puente in the quarterfinals, 34-32, and Chino in the semifinals, 45-43.
La Quinta will have to contend with highly regarded Tiger center Kim Crawford, who has been remarkable all season, especially in the playoffs.
Crawford is averaging 18 points a game, and scored 28 of her team's 45 points in the semifinal against Chino Wednesday night.
"She'll have to have a good game because the Aztecs are a much taller team," Tiger Coach Harry Bottorff said. "We'll have to hit from the outside to have a chance."
Tiger guard Audrey Rocha will probably do most of the outside shooting, according to Bottorff. She is averaging 12 points a game in the playoffs. She also leads the team in steals and assists.
Aztec Coach Mike Linck believes his team will be able to handle Crawford. Forward Melissa Fejdasz has been at least as effective for the Aztecs, averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds in the playoffs.