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Moments That Helped Shape the Prep Sports Year : A Standout Matchup

June 13, 1995|DAVE McKIBBEN

As graduating seniors across Orange County prepare to toss their mortarboards and face the future, it's time to take a look back at the people, events and issues that helped make 1994-95 a remarkable year in county high school sports.

Few prep sports fans are likely to forget the accomplishments of Mater Dei in football and boys' and girls' basketball. The Monarchs won Southern Section titles in each sport, won the boys' Division I State championship in basketball and came within three points of winning the girls' Division I State title.

The football team finished 14-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Or the Woodbridge girls' basketball team, which returned to Oakland and avenged a 71-38 drubbing last year by beating Sacramento El Camino, 55-40, to win the Division II State championship.

Or Misty May, the most sought-after volleyball recruit in the nation, leading Newport Harbor to its first Division I State title. Or the girls' soccer team at Marina, extending its unbeaten streak to 61 matches in winning its third consecutive Division I championship.

Or the county record-breaking feats of track and field youngsters Bryan Harrison (Dana Hills sophomore, 100 meters) and Ashley Bethel (Mission Viejo freshman, 100 hurdles). Or Esperanza senior Courtney Pugmire's shattering of the 3,200-meter record by nearly 14 seconds.

Or the playoff success of the county's baseball teams, winners of four of six section titles. La Quinta and Fountain Valley became the first county teams to win back-to-back championships, on the same day at Anaheim Stadium. Or Marina and Woodbridge's victories in the Division I and II softball title games.

Or the continued domination of county schools in swimming and diving, with Mission Viejo and Laguna Hills earning Division I and II boys' championships.

Or Garden Grove breaking Alhambra Keppel's 115-match winning streak in badminton. The Argonauts ended Keppel's five-year reign as section champions with a 10-9 victory in the Division I title game.

County schools won 29 section titles and three State titles.

Members of The Times Orange County prep sports staff share their memories about the people, events and issues that made the greatest impression on them in the last 10 months.

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A Standout Matchup

As journalists, we are often criticized for over-hyping an event or overrating a player. Usually, I am guilty of the opposite--downplaying an event or underrating a player.

But at the Above The Rim Holiday Basketball Classic in San Diego last December, I witnessed a happening that I could not underplay--a showdown between two of the best high school players I have ever seen.

I have seen some great high school basketball players who later played in the NBA--Byron Scott, Harold Miner, Sean Elliott, Tracy Murray, Fat Lever and Don McLean--but never had I seen anything like Brooklyn Lincoln's Stephon Marbury and Mater Dei's Schea Cotton.

In front of a overflow crowd that included Jerry Tarkanian and Jim Harrick at Del Mar Torrey Pines High's gym, Marbury and Cotton put on a show that NBA general managers would find captivating. Cotton, a 6-foot-5 forward with springs for legs, seemingly followed each three-pointer with a baseline drive that would finish with a thunderous slam.

Marbury, though, was harder to believe and even harder to describe. A 6-3 point guard with a middleweight boxer's build, it seemed he had eyes in the back and side of his head as he hit unsuspecting teammates with bullet no-look passes from everywhere on the court. If he wasn't dishing, he was blowing by the Mater Dei team or pulling up from beyond 25 feet for floating jumpers that were hitting all net.

My wife and I could only look at each other and we knew that it wouldn't be long before we'd be watching Marbury and Cotton on ESPN, the home of college basketball, and eventually on NBC, TNT, WTBS, the homes of the NBA. Every time I glanced at Tarkanian, he was shaking his head. It didn't surprise me when Tarkanian, now the Fresno State coach, went after Marbury so hard even after Marbury had verbally committed to Georgia Tech.

Say what you want about Tarkanian, but the man knows talent.

After coming back to the office later that week, one of my colleagues said to me, "Boy, Dave, you must have really thought Marbury was something, because you don't usually hype a kid that much in your stories."

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