Alemany High players have quietly listened to all the talk about how they're ripe to be knocked from their perch atop the Mission League girls' basketball standings.
Four starters return from a Harvard-Westlake team that ended Alemany's 42-game league winning streak last season. Harvard-Westlake already has won the championship of one tournament and finished second in another.
Harvard-Westlake, Harvard-Westlake, Harvard-Westlake.
"We can't pay attention to any of that stuff," said sophomore Kate Beckler, Alemany's All-Southern Section guard. "We know what we can do and we're confident."
They have every reason.
With Beckler and senior point guard Kelli Kobayashi, another All-Southern Section selection, the Indians have one of the region's best backcourts.
They also have tradition on their side.
Alemany has won at least a share of five consecutive league titles and has advanced to five section championship games in six seasons under Coach Melissa Hearlihy.
Last season, the Indians finished 26-4 and fell to Muir in the Division III-A final.
That division could be a little weaker this season, leading some to believe the Indians are heading for a sixth trip to the final and a third title.
"It is my belief that Alemany will win [a division title]," said Simi Valley Coach Dave Murphy, whose team lost to the Indians in a holiday tournament. "They still have good players and good coaching."
Alemany (9-4) would prefer to hear all the talk about Harvard-Westlake (11-4).
It's been a while since the Indians have played the role of underdog.
"All the talk [about Harvard-Westlake] is kind of a relief," said Kobayashi, a Times' All-Valley selection last season. "No one expects us to do well. There's no pressure on us."
While Alemany has a proud past, Harvard-Westlake is only beginning to build a reputation.
Last season, the Wolverines advanced to the playoffs for the first time in school history after tying Alemany for the league title.
Harvard-Westlake may be even stronger this season.
Post players Omelogo Udeze and Rolake Bamgbose and guards Corrie Roberts and Brooke Porter are back from a 20-7 team. They have been joined by sophomore transfer L'Tanya Robnett, a starter last season at Palmdale.
The Wolverines won the Beverly Hills tournament and were second in Santa Barbara's Tournament of Champions Green Division.
Louisville (9-0) and Notre Dame (10-3) are off to their best starts in years. Notre Dame's Keith Case is one of three first-year coaches in the league. Kelli DiMuro has taken over a struggling Chaminade program and Carl Nakagawa has taken over at Flintridge Sacred Heart.
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AT A GLANCE
* THE PROVEN: Guards Kelli Kobayashi and Kate Beckler earned All-Southern Section honors after leading Alemany to the Division III-A final. Notre Dame guards Judy Diaz, Michelle Barraza and Liz Gosalvez have keyed a 10-3 start. Point guard Kari Crawley is Louisville's only returning starter. Center Adriane Stefansen and guard Leslie Ciriaco are Chaminade's top returners. Four starters return for Harvard-Westlake--guards Corrie Roberts and Brooke Porter and post players Omelogo Udeze and Rolake Bamgbose. All-section guard Danielle Dal Ponte is averaging 20 points for Flintridge Sacred Heart, which also returns Megan Hankins.
* THE PROMISING: Sophomore wing L'Tanya Robnett has been a key starter for Harvard-Westlake since transferring from Palmdale, where she started as a freshman. Freshman Megan Wiser is averaging 11.6 points for Louisville. Flintridge Sacred Heart is high on freshman guard Lacey Smale. Sophomore guard Julie Cichon led Chaminade in scoring in nonleague play. Freshman forward Karina Siam and sophomore guard-forward Alma Sandoval have become key contributors for Alemany. Freshman guardSierra Hauser-Price is leading Notre Dame in scoring.
* FAST FACT: Harvard-Westlake Coach Brian Taylor beat out Hall of Famer George Gervin for Rookie of the Year honors in the old American Basketball Assn. in the 1972-73 season for the New York Nets.
* 1996-97 STANDINGS: 1. (tie) Alemany 26-4 overall, 9-1 in league play; Harvard-Westlake 20-7, 9-1; 3. Louisville 16-7, 6-4; 4. Notre Dame 8-15, 3-7; 5. Flintridge Sacred Heart 3-16, 2-8; 6. Chaminade 5-17, 1-9.