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Tight-Knit Buena Sews Up Another Championship : Girls' basketball: Bulldogs credit unity after defeating Mater Dei, 50-41, for second consecutive Division I-A title.


VENTURA — This Buena High girls' basketball team stands apart from the others that Joe Vaughan has coached in his 19 seasons.

For one, it is his first squad to win two Southern Section championships in a row, a distinction the Bulldogs earned with their 50-41 victory over Mater Dei before 2,000 in the Division I-A final Friday night at Ventura College.

Buena (24-2) beat Thousand Oaks by one point in last year's thrilling final.

Secondly--and this is the main reason that distinction No. 1 was possible--Vaughan's players like each other. They really do.

"A lot of people forget about how important that element is in team sports," said Vaughan, whose Buena teams have won four section titles in 10 trips to the finals, including five in a row.

"There are a lot of egos involved. That closeness has impressed me since last summer. It's very critical for our philosophy."

That philosophy in a nutshell: Pass, pass, pass the ball until you get an easy shot, and the cohesive Bulldog squad executed that strategy to near perfection.

Fifteen of Buena's 18 baskets--including all nine in the first half--were layups. Mater Dei simply wore down under the onslaught of gimmes.

"They kept passing the ball and passing the ball until it was in the right place at the right time," Mater Dei Coach Mary Hauser said. "And then we had breakdowns."

The key breakdown came in the beginning of the second quarter, when Buena outscored the Monarchs, 9-2, in the first three minutes to open a 32-20 lead.

Sophomore guard Kori Sebek started the flurry by drilling a wide-open three-pointer on a set play just 10 seconds into the half.

After layups by guard Eboni Conley and center Michelle Giordano, Sebek finished the stretch with yet another layup.

The Monarchs (24-4) could come no closer than seven points after that.

"It's not exactly the best Buena team I've played on," said Giordano, a four-year varsity player who scored a game-high 18 points. "But it's the closest. When you're united, you play better."

Many of Buena's key players have played together for years on the same youth team--the Ventura Stars.

"This team is like the Stars all over again," Conley said. "It's quite fun. We all know each other so it's quite comfortable."

Buena is also loaded with championship experience. Guards Sebek and Conley are sophomores who have already won two section titles. Conley had nine points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Sebek had five steals and eight points.

"Everything just seemed to go right," Giordano said. "I'm so proud of this team."

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