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No More Runaround, Royal Lands a Shot at No. 1 Buena

I-A: Highlanders outlast Westminster, 58-53, and advance to quarterfinals.


SIMI VALLEY — Now they're ready for Buena.

In fact, the Royal High girls' basketball team is probably ready for just about anything after outlasting Westminster in a 58-53 victory in the second round of the Southern Section Division I-A playoffs Wednesday night at Royal.

The Highlanders advance to the quarterfinals, where they will play defending I-A-champion Buena on Saturday. The Bulldogs defeated Righetti in another second-round game Wednesday.

"We get to play Buena," Royal's Alicia Weber said. "Yeah! I'm just so excited we get to play again. I wanted to play Buena."

The Highlanders will do so, one round later than originally planned.

Royal was originally scheduled to play Buena in a second-round game. But Highlander Coach Mike Kohl successfully lobbied to have his team switch places in the playoff bracket with Righetti in order to avoid a second-round matchup with Ventura County's perennial powerhouse and the Times' top-ranked team in the region.

For much of Wednesday's game, the Highlanders had to go to similar lengths to avoid the Lions and their high-pressure defense.

Indeed, the Highlanders (25-3) went down to the wire to win, securing the victory only when Annette Wilson stole the ball and passed to teammate Kirsten Nicholas for a layup with four seconds to play.

Royal held a 55-48 advantage--its largest of the game--with 41 seconds to play. But Westminster (23-6), a tenacious team that hounded and hung with the Highlanders all night, made Royal sweat out the closing seconds.

A three-point basket by Westminster's Tara Moore (16 points), closed the gap to 55-51 with 21 seconds left. Royal's Teresa Russell hit one of two free throws, but then Westminster's Erin Arganda hit a pair of free throws for her only points to pull the Lions within 56-53 with 15 seconds to play.

Finally, Wilson stepped in, stole the ball from Moore in the backcourt and got the ball to Nicholas for the final points.

"It's a great feeling," Wilson said. "I didn't even think about it. I just went for the ball, and I got it."

Also key to the Highlanders' fortunes was Weber, a senior guard who finished with a game-high 20 points.

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