Buena High unveiled a pair of surprises against host Ventura in a showdown between the Channel League's two best girls' basketball teams Thursday night.
The play of senior Julie Hardy and freshman Kori Sebek caught the Cougars off-guard and sparked Buena to a 58-40 victory that all but clinched the league title for the Bulldogs. Buena (16-2, 11-0 in league play) leads Ventura (15-4, 9-2) by two games with three games to play.
Sebek, a reserve, scored 10 points, and Hardy dismissed the effects of an ankle injury to score eight in a five-minute stretch of the second half, helping the Bulldogs turn a tight contest into a rout.
Hardy was a standout at Buena the past two seasons, but was sidelined after tearing ligaments in her right ankle two weeks ago. Initial reports had Hardy missing up to six weeks after a cracked bone was detected in X-rays. But a second set of X-rays showed the fracture was from a previous injury and had healed.
"When they told me I could be out for six weeks, I told myself there was no way I was going to be out more than two weeks," said Hardy, who had five points in limited playing time Tuesday in a victory over Dos Pueblos. "I set myself to be ready in time to play against Ventura."
Hardy left Ventura hurting Thursday.
Buena was guarding a 30-26 lead with a minute and a half left in the third quarter when Hardy turned an Eboni Conley pass into a twisting, turnaround jumper. She then converted a free throw to make it a three-point play, giving the Bulldogs a seven-point lead.
From there, Sebek buried five outside shots and Hardy added five more points to push Buena to the victory.
"I just wanted to bring the ball down the court and get something started," said Sebek, who was added to the varsity roster two weeks ago to improve the Bulldogs' perimeter attack.
Ventura hurt its cause with 23% shooting and 11 first-half turnovers.