SANTA BARBARA — The Brea-Olinda High School girls' basketball team upset the nation's top-ranked team, Morningside, 59-48, in the semifinals of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions Thursday night.
The victory extended Brea's school-record winning streak to 34 games and ends defending Division I champion Morningside's winning streak at 27 games.
"There are a lot of kids in other areas that don't think Orange County kids can play basketball," Brea-Olinda Coach Mark Trakh said. "We have had a lot of big wins but this is the biggest win in our program."
Brea will play L.A. Washington in the tournament final tonight.
Brea does not have the size to compete with Morningside (7-1) and its 6-4 forward Janet Davis and 6-5 All-American Lisa Leslie, the winner of this year's Dial Award given to the top prep female scholar-athlete in the nation.
Brea's center is 5-8 Jinelle Williams and its tallest player is 6-foot Allison Bickel, but the Wildcats cut Morningside down to a more manageable size putting Lisa Leslie on the bench with foul trouble for five minutes of the first half and five minutes of the decisive third quarter.
Davis missed the game with an ankle sprain suffered in Morningside's quarterfinal victory over Oakland of Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Brea Olinda (12-0) outscored the Monarchs, 19-4, in the third quarter to lead, 47-34.
The Ladycats took their biggest lead, 49-34, at the start of the fourth quarter, and though Leslie returned to score 10 fourth-quarter points, Morningside just couldn't recover.
The Wildcats' full-court pressure was effective as was the penetration of point guard Aimee McDaniel, who threaded Morningside's zone and ended with 22 points, primarily on layups.
Morningside Coach Frank Scott said he hadn't planned on McDaniel being able to take it to Leslie. "Our main objective was to shut her down. We didn't do a very good job of that. Without our big people in there it opens it up a bit, but she did a good job of exploiting that. They're a good team. They beat us. We'll accept that defeat," he said.
Despite the absence of Davis, the victory was still sweet for Brea. "This was the last chance our seniors were going to get to beat Lisa Leslie and they did it," Trakh said. "There have been plenty of games we didn't have Aimee McDaniel last year and nobody put an asterisk by it."
Senior guard Tammy Blackburn had trouble getting on track until the third quarter. She was 1-11 the first half but scored eight points on four-of-eight shooting in the third quarter and ended with 14 points.
"(Trakh) was a little upset that I wasn't playing up to my potential and he gave me the greatest pep talk I have ever had at halftime," Blackburn said.
The key to the victory was Brea's decision to go with straight man-to-man defense to handle Leslie, Trakh said. Anton and Williams alternated guarding her with plenty of help. The ploy held Leslie, who is averaging 27 points a game, to 24 points on 11-of-20 shooting.
"I think Jody Anton and Jinelle Williams really took it to her," Trakh said of Leslie, who fouled out with 55 seconds remaining.
Blackburn summed up Brea's feelings: 'It's so awesome. We beat the No. 1 team in the nation and we are just so damned proud of it."