SAN DIEGO — Liza Carrillo of Point Loma High School remembers sitting on the bench during her freshman season, more than a little intimidated watching a San Diego Section playoff game. After all, she had just been brought up to the varsity.
And when Coach Lee Trepanier told her to get ready to play, she was downright frightened.
"I begged him not to put me in, that's how scared I was," recalled Carrillo, now a senior. "I guess I played all right that game."
Point Loma went on to win the state title that season and the next two with Carrillo, no longer fearful of pressure situations, helping lead the way.
Saturday night, Point Loma will try to make it four straight state championships when the Pointers play Sacramento Grant at Oakland.
And after all is said and done, Carrillo and her teammates would like to clear up some misconceptions about Point Loma.
--All-American forward Terri Mann is solely responsible for the Pointers' success.
--The team is inexperienced, aside from Mann, and the other players cannot match up with opponents outside San Diego County.
--Point Loma's program will fall apart after Mann's departure in June.
"That gets us mad," said Carrillo, who averages 18 points a game. "Terri doesn't play defense on all five of the other players. She doesn't bring the ball up by herself. She may be a leader, but there is no way she is a one-man team."
The first two points were proven wrong in last week's Southern Regional championship against Edison High School of Huntington Beach. Mann was held to 19 points (19 below her average), but Carrillo scored 17, including 13 in the second half, and sophomore guard Monica Filer had 10.
Said Mann after the victory: "We have a lot of good players on this team. People always center on me. They forget people like Liza and Monica."
Said Trepanier: "Teams have to play us straight up. I think they have to figure a way to score on us, because, hey, Terri and Liza are going to get their points one way or another."
The question of inexperience had its merits early this season. Aside from seniors Mann and Carrillo, Point Loma starts a junior (Lois Guillory), a sophomore (Filer) and a freshman (Tyeast Brown).
Brown had never played organized basketball before this season, but her cousin, Mann, spent most of her time with Brown over the summer working on basics. By the end of the summer, Mann was confident enough in her cousin's ability to make a pitch to Trepanier.
Trepanier said he was impressed with Brown's defense from the first meeting.
"She learned defense first and that's why she got to play," he said.
Brown, who is 5-feet 10-inches, had more than 130 rebounds this season.
Filer has emerged as a strong threat from the perimeter. The 5-8 guard hit three straight 12-foot shots against Edison.
The younger players have improved quickly from playing against Mann in practice.
"Good players play better against great players," Trepanier said. "They use her and she uses them. They look up to her for leadership and she doesn't let them down."
Said Carrillo: "(Mann) has taught me a lot, not just about the game, but attitude on the court and how to be strong and take what you get."
With three starters returning next season, and only two players departing, Trepanier has one thing to say to those who think Point Loma will be an easy target next year: "They all will find out next year," he said.