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Regals Get Their Points Across on Scoreboard : Basketball: Notre Dame Academy players adopt team concept to win Sunshine League championship. They will enter Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs as the third-seeded team.

February 20, 1992|RAY RIPTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOS ANGELES — After an outstanding game, Notre Dame Academy basketball Coach Ed Aronin rewards his players with chocolates, but he never allows them to look at the score book.

The efficacy of one of his motivational techniques seems dubious; the other seems to be working very well.

The Regals (15-1), who won the Sunshine League championship with an 8-0 record, will be seeded third in the Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs, which begins Saturday. Notre Dame will play host to Nordhoff of Ojai, which finished second in the Frontier League, at 7:30 p.m.

Notre Dame senior center Cyndi Pucik is not sure if the chocolates that Aronin hands out have inspired the team--she suspects the candy may be left over from Halloween--but she says not being able to look at the score book has made the Regals a better team.

"Once everyone stopped looking at the book and stopped worrying about her own totals, we started playing together as a team," Pucik said.

Senior guard Nancy Culver, who was named to The Times' 1991 All-Westside team, said that the "main focus has changed from individuals to the team. It used to be, 'What did I do? What did I do?'

"(Aronin) taught us what we had to do, and now we're playing as a team and putting it all together."

One of Aronin's requirements is for players to be in shape. The second-year coach has players run steps and steep hills in Cheviot Hills Park, which is near the West Los Angeles school.

The conditioning helps the Regals run their fast-break offense. The offense, which is modeled after Coach Paul Westhead's high-scoring teams at Loyola Marymount University, "is harder on the other team than it is on us," Pucik said. "It wears them down, and makes it easier for us to keep running."

Culver, who averages 14 points a game, is vital to the Regal offense. But early during a Feb. 4 game against league rival Marlborough, Culver injured her right knee and was taken to a hospital.

Although no serious damage was found and she is expected to play Saturday, Culver's importance to the Regal offense was evident. At halftime, Notre Dame trailed Marlborough by 11 points and Aronin thought "the whole season was down the tubes."

But Pucik scored 16 of her game-high 21 points in the second half and junior point guard Veronica Guzman added 18 as the Regals rallied to win, 44-40.

Marlborough Coach John Ferrante thought his team would beat Notre Dame after Culver was injured. "But they really pulled together. They could be the best team in (Division IV). They're big and fast and try to fast break on every rebound.

"They've got Culver and Guzman, a great outside shooter, up the middle of the break. They've got the talent. It depends how well Culver comes back from her injury.

"The Sunshine League is tough and Notre Dame kept on proving it. They pulled out every close game, which shows they keep their heads in the game."

Pucik thinks the Notre Dame players will be able to keep their attention on the game and away from the score book. "I know that most of the people on the team wouldn't care if they didn't score a basket," she said. "But as long as we win, that's what is most important.

"We can beat anyone as long as we play our own game. The only way we can lose is to beat ourselves."

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