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Three for the Show

Women: Ventura, Canyons and Moorpark will take their best shots at championship, with Cuesta giving WSC a 50-50 chance.


CUPERTINO — One team was expected to show up, another sent strong signals and a third . . . well, that one was a complete surprise.

Regardless of how they fit in the pecking order, the women's basketball teams at Ventura College, Canyons and Moorpark are chasing the same dream--a state championship.

The three are among eight schools, four from the south and four from the north, competing for the title today through Saturday at De Anza College in Cupertino and at San Jose State.

Cuesta, of San Luis Obispo, also advanced, giving the Western State Conference a sweep in the Southern California Regional. Ventura was Northern Division champion, with Cuesta finishing second and Moorpark third. Canyons won the Southern Division.

In today's quarterfinals at De Anza, Cuesta (27-6) plays Solano (31-5) at 1 p.m., defending champion Ventura (33-1) meets De Anza (30-6) at 5 p.m., Canyons (31-4) faces Butte (30-4) at 3 p.m. and Moorpark (20-11) goes against Merced (30-5) at 7 p.m.

The semifinals are Friday and the final is Saturday, both at San Jose State.

Ventura, top-ranked in the state, carries a 26-game winning streak and a 68-1 record the past two seasons into today's game against the Dons, the No. 4-seeded team from the north.

The Pirates defeated De Anza, 77-73, in the semifinals of the Sequoias tournament in December and lost to San Jose, 81-75, in the final.

Despite the setback, the Pirates remained top-ranked in the state and were virtually guaranteed a spot in the tournament. But Coach Ned Mircetic believes this Final Eight is no walk in the park, not even the first game.

"[De Anza is] a fast, aggressive, good-shooting team," Mircetic said. "They full-court press man to man the whole game.

"Plus there are a lot of hypes we have to deal with. The hype of them playing at home. The hype of us being the defending state champion. The hype of us being ranked No. 1."

Moorpark doesn't have to worry about any of that.

The Raiders were unranked and seeded 14th in the regional but upset third-seeded Harbor in the second round and Mt. San Antonio in the third round to advance to the Final Eight for the second under the present system.

Moorpark qualified in 1988 and 1981, but there were only south and north regionals from 1979-84.

The Raiders snapped Harbor's 63-game home winning streak and beat Mt. SAC, 87-85, in overtime on Carrie Billone's 17-foot basket at the buzzer after tying the score, 75-75, on a three-point shot by Heidi Petz as time ran out in regulation.

"They are the Cinderella team, but they are much more talented than your typical Cinderella team," Mircetic said of the Raiders.

Moorpark's second-year Coach Sherry Ruter, who has resurrected a team that had an 8-22 record three seasons ago, said the Raiders never stopped believing in themselves even when they lost standout guard Trisha Palmquist for nine conference games because of a broken leg.

Palmquist averaged 22.3 points in three regional games.

"After we finished conference, our sophomores said, 'We are going to San Jose,' " Ruter said.

Canyons seemed headed in that direction all along.

The Cougars won the WSC Southern Division title with a 12-0 record. They have won 19 consecutive games, their last defeat coming to Ventura, 77-70, in a WSC interdivisional game Jan. 2 at Ventura.

This is the third trip to the state championships for the Cougars, who lost in the quarterfinals in 1990 and 1995.


JC Women's Basketball State Tournament

At De Anza College and San Jose State

All Times Pacific

First Round--Today at De Anza College

* Cuesta (27-6) vs. Solano (31-5), 1 p.m.

* Canyons (31-4) vs. Butte (30-4), 3 p.m.

* Ventura (33-1) vs. De Anza (30-6), 5 p.m.

* Moorpark (20-11) vs. Merced (30-5), 7 p.m.

Semifinals--Friday at San Jose State

* Cuesta-Solano winner vs. Ventura-De Anza winner, 2:30 p.m.

* Canyons-Butte winner vs. Moorpark-Merced winner, 4:30 p.m.

Championship--Saturday at San Jose State, 5 p.m.

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