It has been a season of firsts for the Cal State Los Angeles women's basketball team, and the Golden Eagles will be shooting for another milestone when they visit Cal Poly San Luis Obispo at 7:30 tonight.
A victory would clinch a berth in the four-team California Collegiate Athletic Assn. postseason tournament that starts Feb. 27--Cal State's first berth as an NCAA Division II team.
A win will also go a long way toward the team securing a berth in the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time.
The Golden Eagles, who entered this week ranked No. 17 nationally in Division II with an 18-8 record and 6-5 (third place) in the CCAA, strengthened their playoff hopes with another first--a victory over Division II power Cal Poly Pomona two weeks ago.
Cal State's 78-63 triumph was its first victory over Pomona in 26 tries.
What makes the success even more impressive is that the Golden Eagles have a starting lineup of underclassmen. The leaders are junior Lupe Quintana (6-0), who averages 10.2 points and a conference-leading 11.9 rebounds, and junior guard Shelley Bowcutt (5-8), who averages 13.1 points.
That should put the Golden Eagles in good position for another first next season--their first conference title.
While the fortunes of Cal State Los Angeles are on the upgrade, it has been business as usual for perennial powerhouse Cal Poly Pomona.
The Broncos, who have clinched the top seed in the conference tournament for the second straight year, head into postseason play as the favorite to win their third straight NCAA Division II national title.
Pomona, 9-1 in conference play and 22-2 overall, concludes regular-season play against Cal State Dominguez Hills at 5:45 p.m. Friday at Poly Pavilion in Pomona and Chapman at 5:45 Saturday in Orange.
The Broncos, led by senior forward Debra Larsen (5-10) and senior point guard Michelle McCoy (5-6), defeated Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (67-43) in their only game last week. Larsen is averaging 18.2 points and 11.6 rebounds to lead the team in both categories. McCoy is averaging 14.8 points and a team-leading 7.8 assists.
The San Gabriel Valley has never been known as a major recruiting area for the Cal State Northridge football team.
But that may be changing under second-year Coach Bob Burt.
With the signing of two San Gabriel Valley prep standouts to national letters of intent last week, Northridge will have five former area players on its roster next season.
The most recent additions are linebacker Wayne Hall of Azusa High, a 6-3 and 205-pounder who made the All-Montview League team the last two years, and linebacker Hector Valdez of Sierra Vista, 6-3 and 225 pounds and also an All-Montview selection.
The others are senior defensive tackle Destor Stowers (6-3, 250) from Pasadena City College, redshirt freshman quarterback Sherdrick Bonner (6-3, 170) of Azusa High and sophomore linebacker David Foster (6-0, 215) of Ganesha.
Perhaps the best of the group is Stowers, who started for the Matadors last year, made the All-Western Football Conference team and is considered a NCAA Division II All-American candidate next season.
One of the longest streaks in CIF Southern Section girls basketball history came to an end when San Gabriel lost to Burroughs (Burbank) two weeks ago.
The 42-34 loss snapped San Gabriel's 79-game winning streak in league games that started in 1979 and was the team's first ever in the Foothill League.
The league winning streak is the second longest in Southern Section history behind Riverside Poly, which won 97 straight from 1978 to 1985.
While that streak ended, the Matadors maintained another by finishing 9-1 in the Foothill League for their 10th straight league title.
Pomona High may have the best boys basketball team in the Baseline League--and arguably one of the best in the San Gabriel Valley.
But the Red Devils will be watching from the sidelines when the first round of the CIF 4-A playoffs starts Friday.
Pomona finished with a 15-9 overall record and tied for third place with Claremont at 9-5 in Baseline play. But Claremont earned the league's third and final playoff berth because it beat the Red Devils twice, 76-69 and 59-58.
The Red Devils cannot help but think that the results would have been different if All-CIF forward Derwin Collins had been in their lineup.
Collins, considered the best player in the valley, missed more than half of his team's games because he was academically ineligible. He returned for the final three games, which the Red Devils won easily.
While he was in the lineup for Pomona's first eight games, Collins averaged 28.3 points and 19.5 rebounds to lead the valley in both categories, and the team was 6-2. Collins also played brilliantly in the final three games, including a 43-point effort against Alta Loma last week.
Unfortunately for Collins and the Red Devils, it was a case of too little and too late.