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March 05, 2000|LAUREN PETERSON

Canyons 89, Irvine Valley 74--Sha'Tasha Allen scored 19 of her 29 points in the second half and the Cougars rallied to defeat Irvine Valley in a Southern California Regional third-round game at Canyons.

Allen's efforts sent Canyons (26-6) to the state championships beginning Thursday in Stockton.

It is the Cougars' first trip to the final eight since 1996-97, when they were runner-up to Ventura.

"I'm so excited," Allen said. "This was the goal. This was our chance to go to state. I just did what I had to do."

Canyons also got 19 points and 13 rebounds by Birmingham High graduate Siosi Tuli, who was involved in two collisions with Irvine Valley players in the rough-and-tumble, foul-plagued game.

Irvine Valley (24-9), which had three players foul out, lost reserve Jennifer Rakowitz when she collided with Tuli in the first half and left the game with an injured left arm. Amber Avestruz suffered a bloody mouth when she was elbowed by Tuli under the basket in the final seconds. A double foul was called--including a technical on Tuli--and Avestruz fouled out on the play.

Irvine Valley, which made the Final Eight last season, was denied a repeat appearance despite 23 points and seven rebounds by Avestruz.

But it wasn't enough for the Lasers, who led, 42-34, and halftime but committed 23 turnovers and fell victim to Canyons' big second half.

Canyons pulled within 44-42 early in the second half as Allen scored five points, and the game was tied three times in the last 17 minutes.

Canyons, averaging more than 80 points per game, outscored Irvine Valley, 25-13, in the first 9:55 of the second half to take its biggest lead, 59-55, to that point.

That advantage eventually grew to 10 points, 84-74, and was extended to the final margin in the last minute when Irvine Valley was forced to foul.

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