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Eagles Unable to Reach Their Peak in Pyramid

March 09, 1997|DAN ARRITT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LONG BEACH — Capistrano Valley Christian Coach Lisa Gray saw the concern about the time the team bus exited the freeway Saturday morning. The black, pointed tip of the Pyramid had immediately drawn 12 sets of eyes in its direction.

Suddenly the Eagles' opponent in the Southern Section Division V-AA championship game, Covina Western Christian, was replaced by another. "My stomach dropped when I walked in here," senior guard Hayley Hall said.

Capistrano Valley Christian (23-6) yearned for its cramped gymnasium back home, where the walls butt up against the baselines and the seating capacity is limited to double digits.

"They aren't used to this kind of backdrop," Gray said. "We play in a gym that is like a shoe box."

During warmups, Gray said, her players complained that they were blinded by overhead lighting on certain spots on the floor.

"They said, 'Coach, come here, when you shoot the lights are in your eyes,' " Gray said. "And I just said the lights are in their eyes too. Don't think about those things."

It turned out to be easier said than done as the Eagles made only 15 of 53 field goals, including two of 15 beyond the three-point arc in their 60-49 loss. Capistrano Valley Christian also had trouble from the free-throw line, especially in the second half when it missed 14 of 22.

"I think experience was a big thing in this game," Gray said. "They were in the finals last year, they've already been here."

Gray said the team has been mentally exhausted from the two narrow victories that put the Eagles in their first Southern Section title game. "We are so mentally drained, no one has slept in two weeks," Gray said.

"I told them that athlete for athlete, the teams that we have been beating in the playoffs are better than us, but we're after every ball and our defense is good. But it just didn't work today."

Gray said the Eagles can find solace in the fact their season did not end with Saturday's loss, as the state playoffs begin Tuesday. And she already has found her motivating factor for the next round.

"In 1991, our girls' volleyball team lost in the semis, got a wild card, and then won the state championship, so I just tell the players that," Gray said. "We lost in the finals, but it's not over yet. And I don't think they're ready for it to be over."

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