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It's a Big Shot in the Girls' Game : Basketball: Not only can three-pointers rescue a team from defeat, they can inflict psychological damage on opponents.

January 23, 1991|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Scenes from a high school girls' basketball game anywhere in Orange County . . .

A player launches a shot from beyond the arc that extends 19 feet 9 inches from each rim. The ball drops through the net. The referees raise their arms as if signaling a touchdown. Those on one side of the gym cheer.

Score another bull's-eye for the three-pointer, the shot that has revolutionized girls' basketball.

Make no mistake: The three-pointer is the big shot for girls not only because of what it can do for a team, but because the distance is the same as for boys, it also is generally more difficult and makes an even bigger impression in girls' games.

And there has been little sentiment expressed for moving it closer. That would be tantamount to moving in the fences in baseball.

"My idea of the three-pointer is that not everybody should be able to shoot it," said Lisa McNamee, coach of second-ranked Estancia. "The distance is fine where it is."

Bob Becker, coach of undefeated Rancho Alamitos, agrees.

"Having coached boys' basketball for eight years, I thought the distance was too close," said Becker, who is in his first year of coaching girls. "But I think it's a reasonable distance for the girls. You go too much farther and the girls don't have the strength to make it. They are just not strong enough."

Not that girls have been afraid to attempt the shot. In fact, since it was first used by the Southern Section on a trial basis in the Freeway and Sunset leagues during the 1986-87 season and fully implemented the following year, it has become a major force for shorter teams or those playing catch-up.

"I think it's great. It's exciting for the fans. The three-point shots for the girls are like the dunks for the guys," said Brea-Olinda Coach Mark Trakh, who last season had one of the county's premier three-point shooters in Aimee McDaniel.

Players such as McDaniel, who made 27 of 87 attempts in her senior season last year and 73 in her high school career, not only can quickly rescue a team from imminent defeat, but can inflict psychological damage to the opposition. The shot has created an option even coaches who don't utilize it heavily have come to appreciate.

"They (the players) have a green light to shoot it any time they want, but I don't rely on it because I don't think it is a consistent shot," McNamee said. "But I like it because it's an exciting shot. It's opened (the game) up in the sense that you can have a 10-point lead, and if the other team has a couple of good three-point shooters, they can get back in the game in a hurry."

One coach who encourages his troops to put up three-pointers is Philip Abraham of Edison. The Chargers set a section record last season by making 115 three-point baskets. Through Tuesday night's game, they are 79 of 237 this season. Abraham said he turned to that offensive tactic partly out of necessity.

"We do it mainly because we don't have a dominant big player yet. When your starting lineup averages 5 feet 9, you have to rely on your outside shooting," Abraham said. "We'd much rather have a layup, but if the three-point shot is there, we'll take it."

That was music to the ears of former Edison guard Debbie Fischer and Erika Miller, Fischer's successor at Edison. Fischer, now playing at UC Riverside, set the section's single-season record for three-point shots with 105 last season. She also holds the career mark with 115. She said the three-pointer helped her earn a college scholarship.

"It's one of the major reasons (for the scholarship)," Fischer said. "A lot of girls see the line and are afraid. I wasn't hesitant at all. I've always had pretty good range, so it came real easy for me."

Miller, a 5-6 senior guard who averages 20.3 points per game, has made 36 of 104 three-point attempts in 21 games this season. But she said defenses make it difficult for her to get off the shot.

"They tend to adjust their defenses . . . to keep me from shooting the three-pointer," Miller said. "He (Abraham) encourages me to shoot it if they are playing off (of her)."

Defending against a three-point artist often forces teams to extend their zones farther than they would prefer, leaving open vulnerable spots near the basket. For teams at a height disadvantage, having three-point shooters is one of the few ways to balance the scales.

"We don't have girls over 5-7, so obviously it's good for us," Becker said. "I think the three-point shot is very valuable for the smaller teams. It may extend a zone defense maybe two feet and it helps teams like ours because the big people can't just pack it in the paint. They have to come out and guard the three-point line."

Abraham said: "It makes teams defend away from the basket and that leaves the middle of the key more open. Our offense begins when we cross half-court. We try to wear teams out because they have to hustle on defense."

Teams aren't alone in having to work a little harder when it comes to the three-pointer. Officials working the games also have to be on alert. That, Brea-Olinda's Trakh said, is where things occasionally break down, creating the only problem he has seen with the rule during the past four seasons.

"We've had games where the kids are behind the line and they're giving them two, and other games when they're inside the line, and they give them three," Trakh said. "I've seen them (the referees) miss a few."

All things considered, the three-point shot seems to have found its place.

Said Abraham: "I think each year more girls (who can shoot it) are emerging and it has proven to be a valuable weapon in girls' basketball."

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