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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Porter Carries Harvard-Westlake When It Matters

III-A: Sophomore breaks out of slump, scores 28 points in 75-64 semifinal victory over Nordhoff.

March 01, 1998|DAVE DESMOND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

NORTH HOLLYWOOD — Not only has Harvard-Westlake High arrived, but the Wolverines have pulled up to the big dance chauffeured by a sophomore who is too young to drive.

Brooke Porter shrugged off an almost season-long shooting slump to score 28 points Saturday night and lead Harvard-Westlake to a 75-64 victory over Nordhoff before a packed house at Campbell Hall in a Southern Section Division III-A girls' basketball semifinal.

"I've been talking for the past few games, saying, 'OK, this is the game I'm going to do it,' " said Porter, who averaged only eight points during the regular season and five in the playoffs. "From the first shot, I knew I was on. . . . I knew in the games that mattered, I would come through."

This one mattered.

Harvard-Westlake, known more for its boys' basketball program, which won state titles in 1996 and '97, had never even been made the girls' playoffs until last season.

In comparison, Nordhoff was seeking its third consecutive berth in the final.

So much for experience.

"At the beginning, I thought we would be the more poised team and that they would be nervous," Nordhoff Coach Ted Cotti said. "That wasn't the case."

Porter scored five points in the first three minutes as Harvard-Westlake claimed an 11-0 lead from which the Rangers (22-7) never recovered. The difference grew to as many as 17 points (49-32) in the third quarter.

The top-seeded Wolverines will face Morningside on either Friday or Saturday at the Long Beach Pyramid.

Third-seeded Morningside last won a section title in 1996, when it defeated Nordhoff.

"The girls kept telling me they were going to get me to the dance," said Brian Taylor, the former NBA guard who is 46-13 in two seasons as Harvard-Westlake's coach. "After the game, I did my little James Brown move and thanked them for getting me to the dance."

Nordhoff forward Erin Barker, who had averaged 35.5 points in two earlier playoff routs, misstepped against Harvard-Westlake.

She went almost two minutes without a field goal during one stretch, and finished with only 13 points on four-for-16 shooting.

That left much of the offensive load to junior forward Christen Roper and senior guard Nell Becker, who each finished with 23 points.

Roper also had 20 rebounds and six blocked shots before fouling out with 1:03 left and Harvard-Westlake leading, 70-62.

The trio of Barker, Roper and Becker combined to average 76.5 points in the playoffs.

"They had a three-man team and we had a five-man team," said Wolverine sophomore forward L'Tanya Robnett, who made three three-pointers and scored 11 points. "No three-man team is going to beat a five-man team like ours."

The Wolverines' balance showed.

Forward Omelogo Udeze had 15 points and 12 rebounds, guard Corrie Roberts scored 11 points and Rolake Bamgbose added seven points.

In earlier rounds, it was Roberts who had attracted attention, scoring 52 points in two games. On Wednesday in the quarterfinals, she became the first Wolverine to surpass the 1,000-point mark in her career.

"We came in focusing on Roberts," Cotti said. "Obviously, we switched our focus by the second quarter."

By that time, Porter and the Wolverines were already driving away.

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