There's a small piece of white, nylon cord dangling from Shawna Newbern's key ring. Though tattered and worn, don't underestimate its significance.
It's a portion of the basketball net that Newbern, a senior guard at Estancia High School, cut down after leading her team to the Sea View League championship last week.
Newbern, The Times' player of the week, scored a career-high 27 points and had 11 rebounds in leading Estancia to a 57-42 victory over Saddleback Thursday.
The victory broke a four-way tie for first place, giving Estancia its first league championship since 1983.
Tuesday, Newbern scored 12 points and had 7 rebounds in the Eagles' 47-43 victory over University.
"We finally got our banner," Newbern said. "It's something I've been working for for four years."
Since she played second string on a Costa Mesa parks and recreation team five years ago, Newbern has suffered from a lack of confidence.
Though it rarely affected her defensive play, it stifled her offensively. Until early this season, Newbern was too scared to shoot.
"I'd be pulling my hair out because she wouldn't (shoot)," said Estancia Coach Lisa McNamee. "She had the ability, and she's always been given the green light to go ahead, but she always said, no, she didn't want to be a ball hog."
Although Newbern had little talent when she started playing basketball as a seventh-grader, her desire to improve helped her develop into one of Estancia's best. McNamee said Newbern was always the most dedicated, spending two hours a day after practice on her shot.
But come game time, Newbern was a different player.
"For a long time, I guess I was just down on myself," Newbern said. "If I missed a basket, I'd be so mad. I didn't shoot at all because I didn't want to miss. I thought it (missing shots) would look stupid.
"Last summer, I just stopped shooting altogether. I was putting all this pressure on myself, saying this is my last year, I've got to get recruited . . . I had a weird attitude. It was kind of scary."
The breakthrough came at the Bolsa Grande tournament in December. Estancia had lost two players to knee injuries, and Newbern suddenly realized her importance.
"I all of a sudden knew I had to do something," she said. "There weren't many of us left, and I started thinking how it's my last year, I don't have much time left. I knew I had to get in there and really play.
"I just started taking people to the basket and getting to the foul line. Not caring what happened, but just to try . . . "
Newbern averaged 15 points a game in the tournament, and was named its most valuable player.
"I remember turning to my assistant and saying, 'I think Shawna's finally arrived,' " McNamee said.
This season, Newbern is averaging 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game for Estancia (17-7, 8-2).
"It's just been a basketball year," she said. "I've done a lot of playing. It's been fun. I really feel at home on the court now."
Estancia High School
Height, Class: 5-9, Sr.
Last Week: Scored a career-high 27 points and had 11 rebounds in leading Estancia to a 57-42 victory over Saddleback--clinching the Sea View League championship--Thursday.
Season: Newbern is averaging 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game for Estancia (17-7, 8-2).