Coach Joe Vaughan believes his girls basketball team has to be in great physical shape to be successful, consequently, Buena High is running toward another Southern Section 4-A championship.
The Bulldogs have made five trips to the finals and won two championships in the past nine years, but Vaughan won't be happy until they run away with another.
Last season, Edison used a fast-break offense to beat Buena, 52-46, in the 4-A final. Vaughan's team was left breathless.
He doesn't want the same thing to happen this year.
This summer, Buena players spent most of their free time in the gym, practicing 20 to 25 hours a week, playing in two summer leagues and one tournament, and attending basketball camps.
In the fall, Buena players went through a six-week conditioning program, which included distance running, strength work and endless drills to improve basketball skills.
"We spend two-thirds of our practice time working on conditioning and fundamentals," Vaughan said. "If you're not in shape and you don't have the proper fundamentals, you can't play basketball."
Rival coaches admire Vaughan for being able to get his players to work so hard during the off-season.
"Those kids are willing to sacrifice their summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas if it means winning a championship." Channel Islands Coach Ryle Lynch-Cole said. "They see a pot of gold at the end of the season and they're willing to work for it."
Vaughan is not only blessed with hard workers but players who make opponents work hard on defense. Buena runs a full-court press defense and employs its fast break whenever possible.
The Bulldogs (26-2, 14-0) won the Channel League title for the 11th consecutive time last season, but they may lack the size to dominate this year's race.
Three starters return, including first-team All-Southern Section selection Mary Klemm. The 5-7 senior guard averaged 9.9 points a game and had a school-record 212 assists. Senior 5-10 forward Stephanie Rainwater (7.5 ppg.) and junior 5-6 guard Joannie Weinerth (7.6 ppg.) are the other returning starters.
Buena will miss the inside game of All-American Teresa Palmisano (6-2), who received a scholarship to play at Cal. Gia Giordano, a 5-10 senior, and Nicole Ellis, a 5-11 sophomore, will try to fill the void.
"We don't have a lot of size like Santa Barbara," Vaughan said. "For us to win, we need each player to grab an extra rebound and chase after loose balls."
Buena won't be the only team looking up to Santa Barbara (21-6, 12-2). The Dons have seven players six-feet or taller, including identical twins Shannon and Heather Frowiss. Shannon, a center, (17.9 ppg., 11.1 rpg.) and Janelle Thompson (14.3 ppg.) earned All-Southern Section honors last season.
Other Channel League players to watch include: Ventura forward Angela Williams; forward Simone Cain and guard Eddy Young of Hueneme; Oxnard guards Laura Stark and Elvia Estrella and Dos Pueblos guard Kim Bluitt, a niece of former Laker Jamaal Wilkes.
In the Marmonte League, Thousand Oaks (8-14, 13-12) is the favorite to win the league title, according to the league's coaches. The Lancers have seven players returning from last year's third-place team, including senior point guard Lina Mascarenas (14 ppg., 7 assists per game.) and senior forward Kris Pederson (13.5 ppg.). Center Barbara Tanner (8 ppg., 8.5 rpg.) learned a few more inside moves and will be a factor. Thousand Oaks beat Buena to win the Buena summer league title.
Other Marmonte League teams and players to watch include: Kristi Gellenbeck of Newbury Park; Channel Islands forwards Ytteb Bowls and Taysha Johnson; Camarillo forward Julie Pantek and guard Nicole Victoria; and guard Dani O'Byrne of Westlake.
In the Frontier League, the Santa Clara Saints (8-0, 16-5) don't start a player taller than 5-6, but few teams can beat them. The Saints have won 55 consecutive league games and don't expect to have that streak broken with two-time starting guard Tami Adkins in the lineup. Adkins (8.9 ppg.) earned first-team All-Southern Section honors as a sophomore. Kris Zeits and Gina Duarte are returning all-league players.
Other Frontier League teams and players to watch include: forwards Liz Crandall and Lora Spier of Calabasas and Lisa Little of Agoura.
Forwards Traci Scoggins (8 ppg., 5 rpg.) and Lisa Swanitz (6 ppg., 5 rpg.) will try to lead defending champion Santa Ynez (14-0, 19-4) to its fourth consecutive title in its final year in the Tri-Valley League.
Other Tri-Valley League teams and players to watch include: Colleen Babby of St. Bonaventure; Oak Park forward Sharon Carson; Katie Soery and Michelle Lundby of La Reina; and Loni Larson of Fillmore.