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CIF STATE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Hawks Stay in a Zone and Win

Division II girls: Laguna Hills' defense leaves another opponent flustered.

March 22, 1997|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — In basketball lingo, the term "in the zone" usually has offensive connotations.

But at Laguna Hills, "in the zone" means means just that . . . the Hawks are playing their 2-3 zone defense.

And that Laguna Hills zone helped it hold onto its first state championship as the Hawks sweated out a 41-40 victory over Newark Memorial in the state Division II girls' basketball championship game Friday at the Pond.

"Game in and game out, our defense has bailed us out," Laguna Hills Coach Lynn Taylor said.

After squandering a 16-point, third-quarter lead, Laguna Hills' 6-foot-6 center Tayyiba Haneef and 5-11 forward Whitney Houser each blocked shots in the final 40 seconds to help preserve the victory. Haneef and Houser finished with four blocks each.

For the second consecutive game at the Pond, Laguna Hills (31-3) held an opponent to under 30% shooting from the field.

Last week in the Division II Southern Regional final, Laguna Hills held Brea Olinda to 21% (12 of 58) field-goal shooting and one of 23 from three-point range.

Friday, Newark Memorial (30-2) made 15 of 58 from the field (26%) and only two of 23 from three-point range.

"Their defense wasn't as dominating as I thought it would be," Newark Memorial Coach Wendell Jones said, trying to explain his team's poor shooting. "We played at ARCO Arena last week [in the Northern Regional finals] so we were used to the big arena.

"And we've seen zones all year. We just didn't hit the shots."

It was a familiar refrain uttered by many Laguna Hills opponents.

Only one team, Los Angeles Washington, was able to shoot Laguna Hills out of its zone during the season, Laguna Hills assistant coach Jim Martin said.

"We heard through the grapevine all season that 'Laguna Hills won't get far in the playoffs playing that zone,' " Martin said. "But why come out of it when you keep winning with it?"

Laguna Hills' talent blend helped make the zone successful.

With guards Tamara Inoue (four steals) and Mary Tims (three steals), the Hawks have two quick and aggressive defenders who can pursue the ball and jump into passing lanes.

With Houser at one forward, opposing three-point shooters have to fire over her 5-11 frame.

And if a player drives around Houser or the other Hawk forwards, Erin Larson or Mandy Mayfield, Haneef is waiting in the middle.

Although the zone may not have earned much respect for the Hawks, it was a big reason why they're holding the state championship trophy.

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