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GIRLS' BASKETBALL PREVIEW : A State Title for Washington? : Coach says her player depth gives the Generals the equivalent of 'two starting-five teams.' But first they must get past Crenshaw, Carson and Roosevelt.

November 20, 1994|KIRBY LEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Julie Rousseau learned what it takes to win a City Section girls' basketball title as an assistant to former Coach Phil Chase during Washington High's 4-A title reign between 1989-92.

Rousseau, in her third year as head coach at Washington, believes the Generals have the potential this season to make a run for the City title--and a state championship.

"This is the best team I have ever had," Rousseau, 29, said. "I'm sure they could give the Washington alumni a run for their money. But my ultimate goal is to do something that hasn't been done at this school before. And that's to bring home a state championship."

That's saying a lot. The Generals were 105-17 and won 65 consecutive games against City competition during their championship run but never made it past the Southern California Regional final.

The balance of power in the City will likely lie in the rugged Southern Pacific Conference. Three of last year's 4-A semifinal teams were from the conference, which has produced the last six 4-A champion teams as well as 1993 3-A champion Banning.

Although Washington has a talented team, the Generals can expect plenty of competition from Crenshaw, the two-time defending City 4-A champion, which shared the Southern League title with Washington and Carson, all with 8-2 records.

Crenshaw (22-6) returns All-City forward Kristi Lattin, a 6-foot senior, along with sophomore center Naila Mosely (6-0), junior Devon King (5-5) and senior Bridgette Jemison (5-10). Carson, a 4-A semifinalist, is bolstered by the addition of senior Shannon Burton, a 5-7 transfer from Crenshaw.

Roosevelt (21-2), winner of four of the last six Southeastern Conference titles, is also a force. The Roughriders, who are led by the senior trio of center Zenobia Tyson Hunt (6-2) and 5-7 guards Jennifer Brambila and Edna Alvarez, took Crenshaw to two overtimes in last year's City final.

South Gate has arguably the City's best player in junior Ruby Maciel, who can single-handedly carry an inexperienced Rams far into the playoffs.

"Washington has a lot of new players and has a lot of size for a City team," Crenshaw co-coach Greg Cobbs said. "All the competition in our conference tends to make us a better team in the long run. But people don't realize we have four returning starters and two championship banners. The title is ours until someone takes it from us."

Last season, Crenshaw lost twice to Washington--its only losses against City competition.

All-City guard Tina Greer (5-2), who averaged 12.7 points, four assists and 5.7 steals, and center Jackie Lauderdale are back from that 18-7 Washington team, which reached the 4-A semifinals. Junior guard Shimika Stringer (5-6) and sophomore forwards Shawnee Pickney (5-11) and Kanisha Best (5-8) also return.

Washington's newcomers, however, include five transfers who have stirred Rousseau's optimism.

Trysta Wilson, a 5-7 junior guard, was a member of the Mohicans' 3-A champion last season. Sophomore center Laneishe Williams (6-0) and forward Courtneigh Burns (5-11) are from Muir. Guard Erika Martinez (5-7) and center Lareishia Finley (6-2), both juniors, are transfers from Serra and Fontana.

"We had some really nice talent returning, but this team is so well-rounded and deep that we literally have two starting-five teams," Rousseau said.

Washington won't have to wait long to test its strength.

The Generals open the season Saturday against Belmont in the 14-team Washington tournament. Crenshaw, Kennedy, Dorsey, Los Alamitos, Venice, South Gate, Huntington Park and Marshall are among the teams who will compete.

On Dec. 7, Washington plays Lynwood, last year's State Division I runner-up, which has a 62-2 record over two seasons. The home game will be a rematch of this summer's Watts Summer Games final won by Lynwood.

From there, it's off to the prestigious Tournament of Champions in Santa Barbara, which features many of the top teams on the West coast, before starting Southern Pacific Conference play in January.

Top Players to Watch

Tina Greer

School: Washington

Height: 5-2

Position: Guard

'93-94 Performance: The junior was named to the All-City team after helping the Generals to the 4-A semifinals. Averaged 12.7 points, four assists and 5.7 steals. She was named most valuale player of the Washington tournament after scored 30 points in the final to lead the Generals to their second championship in three years.

Buzz for '94-'95: Will be the catalyist in the Generals' drive for their five City title in seven years.

*

Kristi Lattin

School: Crenshaw

Height: 5-7

Position: Guard-forward

'93-94 Performance: The 6-0 senior averaged 20.1 points and seven rebounds. She scored 18 points and had four three-point baskets in the City 4-A final to help the Cougars to their second consecutive title.

Buzz for '94-'95: A three-year starter, the versatile Lattin is equally effective playing at the post or on the wing. Was impressive during summer league play.

*

Jackie Leverett

School: Jefferson

Height: 5-9

Position: Guard

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