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PREP BASKETBALL STATE TOURNAMENT : Brea-Olinda Doesn't Want to End Up Being Second Best


BREA — In typical fashion, the cheers went up and the net came down.

Had there been a swimming pool nearby, Coach Mark Trakh would have been thrown in. Had there been a bottle of soda handy, it would have been emptied over his head.

The celebration wasn't in the wake of winning a State title game, or a Southern California title. In fact, the hullabaloo came after the Ladycats' regional semifinal victory over Carlsbad in overtime.

Two games ago. Ancient history.

So why the premature jubilation?

"You see, we're a young team," center Colleen Hudson had said afterward. "This game meant a lot to us. It motivated us to get to State. And we do want to win State."

Much ado has been made of the fact that Brea starts four juniors and a sophomore, has a freshman who is the first player off the bench and will lose only one senior, making it easy to fast-forward to the 1993-94 season.

But that's not good enough. Brea's resolve is right here, right now.

"We want to make our own history. We've worked so hard to get here," said junior Nicole Erickson, who goes for her third consecutive State crown--the school's fourth--when Brea meets Fair Oaks Bella Vista for the Division II title at 6:15 tonight in Oakland.

Said Hudson: "You can't really say 'next year,' because we might not make it this far next year. We all want this really bad."

If it comes down to desire, it will be hard to outdo chronic underachieving Bella Vista. The Broncos' four starting seniors remember falling short of expectations the last two seasons and want to make amends while they can.

"They have to make the most of it," Trakh said of Bella Vista. "That's the way it usually is. Everyone (Brea's opponents at State) the past five years, we'll never see again."

Touching, but Brea is thinking only of itself.

"If you get a chance, you have to do your best with it," Erickson said.

The Ladycats' best is usually good enough. As much as Trakh dances around talk of a three-peat, it's difficult to bet against Brea. In the latest Cal-Hi rankings, the Ladycats are rated third overall in the state, behind Lynwood and Thousand Oaks, and Bella Vista is ranked 10th. In Division II, the top-ranked Ladycats and No. 2 Broncos are neck and neck.

Against common opponent Del Campo, Brea won; Bella Vista split with its cross-town rival. At the Orange County Challenge in early January at Brea's gym, the Ladycats beat Del Campo, 81-72, two days after Del Campo defeated Bella Vista by two points in a game the Broncos led by 12 at the half. In their second Capital Athletic League meeting, Bella Vista defeated Del Campo by seven.

"Realistically, we're the underdogs," Trakh insisted.

Yet Trakh is the first to admit his team is playing some impressive basketball. After its typical romp through Orange League play, the section playoffs offered a higher level of competition, although the Ladycats' 37.3-point margin of victory never reflected it.

"We played really, really well in the section playoffs," Trakh said. "We beat some quality teams. Hopefully we can regain that."

In regional play, Brea blew out Ventura, defeated highly regarded Carlsbad in overtime and fought off plucky San Diego University City.

"They're playing with heart, they're playing with pride," said USC freshman Jody Anton, a former Ladycat who will play her first NCAA tournament game Sunday.

So when Trakh says things like, "we have everyone back, we're in a no-lose situation," it may take the pressure off, but he hasn't trained his players to be satisfied with second-best.

"Practices have been intense," Hudson said. "We're fired up."

The Ladycats aren't willing to wait a year for something they're itching to have right now.

Brea-Olinda Notes

Three Brea fans will divide their loyalties when they travel to Oakland to watch the Brea-Olinda-Bella Vista State championship. Bella Vista's Amy Smith has a cousin who attends Brea and plays in the school band. The Bella Vista star's aunt and grandmother also live in Brea, but Smith believes blood is thicker than school spirit. "I think they'll support me," she said with a laugh. . . . Brea isn't the only team with a baby in its midst. Three weeks ago, Bella Vista Coach Jorie Baer gave birth to her second child, Briana. Baer's original due date fell on a game day, but Briana made her way into the world two days late, on a Saturday. Baer didn't miss a beat. She was back on a Monday, running practice.


Tonight's Division II Girls

Brea-Olinda vs. Fair Oaks Bella Vista, 6:15 p.m.

SITE--Oakland Coliseum Arena

RECORDS--Brea-Olinda (31-2), Bella Vista (29-4).

BREA-OLINDA--The Ladycats aren't accustomed to losing. Their only defeats have come at the hands of top-ranked Lynwood, when Brea was at half strength, and to Orem (Utah) Mountain View, recently crowned state champions. According to Coach Mark Trakh, the Ladycats played some of their best basketball during the Southern Section playoff, dipped some during Southern California play, but are on their way back up.

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