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LOS ANGELES TIMES SPECIAL REPORT : City Times Basketball Playoffs : GIRLS' PREVIEW : Banner Eludes Cougars Since Move Up to 4-A


Major Dennis has little difficulty recalling the last time the Crenshaw High girls' basketball team reached the City Section championship game.

It's a little harder, however, for Dennis to remember the last time the Cougars won it.

"I know we did (win a championship), but I'm not exactly sure when," said Dennis, who is in his 12th season with the Cougars.

The answer, it turned out, hung in front of him on the walls of Crenshaw's gym, hidden among the boys' 11 City championship banners.

"It's right here on that banner," he said. "Now, I remember. It was 1984-85."

That season, the Cougars defeated Fairfax to win the City 3-A title. It was the only time a school won both the boys' and girls' City basketball titles in the same season.

The Cougars moved to 4-A after winning the 3-A title, and have lost the championship game three times in five seasons, a record for 4--A final defeats.

The most recent championship loss came in 1991, when Washington defeated the Cougars. The Generals also defeated Crenshaw in the 1989 final, despite two regular-season losses to the Cougars. Crenshaw lost to Kennedy in 1987.

The Cougars return their starting lineup from last season's 20-5 team that advanced to the 4-A semifinals, including junior Cathleen Grice, a Times Central City and 4-A first-team selection.

The 5-foot-4 junior has helped the Cougars remain undefeated against City competition despite competing in the Southern Pacific Conference, which includes Washington, Banning, Carson and Dorsey.

The top two teams in each league advanced to the playoffs, along with four at-large berths in both 3-A and 4-A. First-round games begin Wednesday; the quarterfinals are scheduled Friday. The semifinals and finals will be played March 3 and 5 at the Sports Arena.

Other teams to watch:


Dorsey, Southern Pacific Conference--The Dons lost in the semifinals last season, but senior transfer Tamu Agiza and junior Donna Lincoln might help the Dons reach their first City title game since 1984.

Agiza, a 5-9 forward who was an All-City selection at Manual Arts as a sophomore, averaged 16.8 points a game. Lincoln, a 6-3 junior, averages 15.7.

Fremont, Southeastern--Sheila Paige and Rochelle Davis have helped the Pathfinders defeat their Southeastern Conference opponents by an average of 25 points. Paige, a 5-10 senior, scored 25 points or more in four consecutive conference games.

Roosevelt, Southeastern--The Roughriders, playing their first season at the 4-A level, won their first eight games of the season.

Roosevelt also recorded victories over Dorsey and Fremont en route to the Washington tournament title. Denise Caudillo, a 5-foot-7 guard,is averaging 25 points a game.

South Gate, Southeastern--Balanced scoring propelled the Rams to a school-record 15 consecutive victories this season.

Senior Michelle Gonzalez (5-8) was selected Most Valuable Player of the Garfield and L.A. Invitational tournaments after guiding South Gate to titles in both. She averages 11 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Ruby Maciel (5-8) leads the team with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Washington, Southern Pacific--Competing in one of the City's toughest conferences, the Generals hope to receive an at-large berth. The four-time defending 4-A champions saw their 65-game winning streak against City opponents come to an end this season in a loss to Fremont in the Washington tournament. Turie McCormick, a 5-11 junior, is shooting 53% from the field.


Jefferson, Southeastern--After falling a game short of their first City title game appearance last season, the Democrats appear ready to take the next step.

Shonte Tippie, a 5-8 senior who was Most Valuable Player in the Eagle Rock tournament, is averaging 27 points a game and 15 rebounds.

Manual Arts, Coastal--Ronneka Taylor and Twanda Cole were the catalysts in the Toilers' turnaround from a 2-12 record last season. Taylor, a 5-9 junior forward, averages 16 points and 14 rebounds. Cole, a 5-10 senior, has averaged 10 points and six steals.

Wilson, Northern--Donna Gordon, a 5-6 sophomore, helped the Mules secure the Northwest League title, averaging 14.8 points in conference play.

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