Lorenzo Garcia, girls' basketball coach at Roosevelt High School, smiled and flashed the No. 1 sign to the team's fans at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The moment he had eagerly awaited was at hand, and the typically gracious Garcia allowed himself some low-keyed bragging.
After being on the threshhold of a City Section Division 3-A title the past two years, Garcia's Lady Riders finally won it all with a 56-41 victory over Huntington Park in the championship game earlier this month. It was Roosevelt's first title in either boys' or girls' basketball.
For Garcia, 31, the victory carried a generous portion of redemption. After losses to Marshall in the 1989 finals and the 1990 semifinals, Garcia had considered bowing out, rather than risking disappointment again. Fortunately for Roosevelt, he decided to stay.
"I was questioning my ability as a coach," Garcia recalled after the championship game. "I felt bad and I took all the blame for the losses the last couple of years, especially when we lost to Marshall by two points (48-46 in semifinals) because I thought it was bad coaching on my part."
Garcia may have been too hard on himself. Under his guidance this year, the Lady Riders not only won their third consecutive Eastern League title, but had the best record in school history and the top mark among City girls' teams at 22-1. Their only setback was in a Christmas tournament to Venice, which they later eliminated in the playoff semifinals.
Garcia, whose record at Roosevelt is 52-6, figured even from the early going that this year's team, with all five starters back, could put it all together. The team had a convincing victory in a preseason scrimmage over Crenshaw, an eventual 4-A finalist.
"I knew that, in my opinion, I had the better team in the 3-A Division," Garcia said. "I knew that Marshall and Venice and Huntington Park were going to be contenders, but I was really confident about my team."
As in the two previous seasons, the bulk of the Roosevelt scoring was done by All-Southeastern Conference most valuable player Rosa Mendez, a senior guard who averaged 16 points per game. She was complemented by senior center Luscinda Silva (8.5 points) and senior guard Angie Quezada (8.1 points). Silva led the team with 17 points in the championship game.
For Huntington Park, the trip to the finals was perhaps a preface to a title in the near future. With a roster of mostly 10th and 11th graders, the Spartans could be the division powerhouse next year.
Under veteran Coach Laurie Woerfel, in her first season with the team, the Spartans finished second in the Eastern League to Roosevelt and pulled out perhaps the biggest upset of the playoffs by dumping two-time defending Division 3-A champion Marshall in the quarterfinals, 52-36.
At Huntington Park, they may be saying, "Wait 'til next year."
Bell Gardens High School won the Southern Section Division 2-A boys' soccer championship with a 3-2 victory over El Dorado earlier this month at Gahr High School. Eric Hurtarte scored the first two goals for Bell Gardens and assisted on Javier Maciel's winning goal. It was Maciel's 14th goal. Bell Gardens is coached by Orlando Brenes, who also coaches the East Los Angeles College team. Brenes took the Lancers to the 3-A title in 1984 . . . In the City Section boys' soccer finals, defending champion Bell was involved in a controversial playoff match, losing this time in the finals to Chatsworth, 1-0. Bell Coach William Albano cried foul when a goal by his team was nullified by referee Herman Gompers, who had signaled the end of the match just before the ball crossed the plane of the goal.