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Focusing Amid the Turbulence : Girls' basketball: Undefeated Alemany has played without its gym, its school, and, for a while, its coach.


MISSION HILLS — Tumult and success, those strange bedfellows, have shadowed the Alemany High girls' basketball team all season.

The distractions keep mounting. And the Indians keep winning.

Alemany (27-0) has advanced to its third consecutive Southern Section final, facing San Bernardino (25-4) in the Division II-A championship game today at 1 p.m. at Cal Poly Pomona.

The Indians are enjoying the finest season in school history. They are also enduring the most turbulent year in memory.

"Ever since the pregnancy, everything has been snowballing," forward Samantha Rigley said. "I think we're all pretty tired of all the distractions."

Rigley referred to Coach Melissa Hearlihy, who missed five games in December to give birth to her first child, Joshua. Hearlihy drew widespread attention for missing only those five contests, returning to coach in a game five days after undergoing a Cesarean section.

Less than a month later, the school and its gym were closed because of damage caused by the Jan. 17 earthquake. Classes resumed two weeks later at a temporary site near the school, and the basketball team scrambled to find practice and game sites.

Alemany has played what were supposed to be home playoff games at St. Francis and Crespi highs. Practices are run at a Burbank gym, a half-hour drive from school.

Students eventually will use portable classrooms being assembled in an orange grove near the school, but until then they are using Our Lady Queen of Angels seminary. Juniors and seniors attend classes in the morning, freshmen and sophomores in the afternoon.

"It's hard because we don't see each other at school like we used to, since the classes are split," said Rigley. "And the gym . . . There's names for that gym--like the Brickhouse. It has a lot of personality. It's like a tradition.

"I miss our school."

The team is ranked fifth in the state and favored to win today's game and the Division II state championships, for which playoffs begin next week.

Four starters--Rigley, senior forward Zevette Mitchell, junior guard Kelly McKay and sophomore center Carly Funicello--average more than 10 points.

In San Bernardino, the Indians will face a trapping, pressing team that relies on guards LaTonya Kindle (18 points per game) and La Cresha Flannigan (12 ppg). Flannigan, however, might not play because of a sprained ankle.

Hearlihy said Alemany must resist playing an up-tempo game, maintaining instead its effective half-court offense. But Hearlihy is confident because the Indians are playing better than they have all season, winning four playoff games by an average of 28.5 points.

"I almost think it's worked out for us in a positive way because we haven't had a chance to peak until now," Hearlihy said. "I had to leave because of the pregnancy, so we hit a lull and then started to play better. Then we had the earthquake and had the same lull.

"Now I think we're coming back and peaking at right time," she said. "I think it's all for the good--if that's possible."


Village Christian also plays for a girls' section championship today. The Crusaders (25-1) face defending champion Cerritos Valley Christian in the Division IV-A title game at 6:45 p.m. at Cal Poly Pomona.

In the 1990-1991 season, the Crusaders were 5-14 and so bad that then-freshman Jeanne Beauchamp, who had been promoted to the varsity, was returned to the junior varsity because the varsity campaign was deemed a lost cause.

Three years later, senior point guard Beauchamp (11 ppg, 5.8 assists) and sophomore forward Lindy James (17.2 ppg, 10 rebounds) have led Village Christian to its second consecutive undefeated Alpha League championship and to the brink of its first section title.

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