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Brea and Laguna Hills Meet Sooner Than Expected


The Southern California Regional playoffs for girls' basketball get under way tonight with a rematch of Orange County's last two state champions.

Brea Olinda faces the 1997 champion, Laguna Hills, hoping it's the first step toward an eighth state title.

Tonight's game, at Laguna Hills, is the first meeting between the schools since their 1997 meeting in a regional final. Laguna Hills won, 40-29. A week later, the Hawks won their only state title, 41-40, against Newark Memorial behind the play of point guard Tamara Inoue, 6-foot-6 Tayyiba Haneef and sharp-shooting forward Whitney Houser.

The teams then went different ways. Brea won back-to-back state titles, and Laguna Hills struggled to be competitive after its four starters graduated.

Even this season, Laguna Hills was a surprise in the Southern Section Division II-A final. The Hawks (18-13) finished third in the Sea View League, were 13-13 going into the playoffs after playing a tough nonleague schedule, and then defeated the No. 3 and No. 2 seeded teams in consecutive games.

Shannon Owens, whose aggressive play around the basket surprised Pacifica in Saturday's 50-45 victory in the Division II-A title game, was called up to the 1997 team during her freshman season.

"A lot of teams knew we were kinda good," Owens recalled. "Now, they see us and think that they're going to kick our butts."

Brea, ranked No. 5 in the state and seeded No. 1 in the section before its 55-46 loss to Redondo Beach Redondo Union in the Division II-AA title game, was a surprising No. 3 seeded team in the playoffs.

It was just as bad for Laguna Hills. Even though a Southern Section representative has won the Southern Regional every year since 1991, the Hawks were seeded No. 6, placed behind the second-place team from the San Diego Section, University City.

"We should be no worse than No. 5," said Laguna Hills Coach Jim Martin.

San Clemente Coach Mary Mulligan, whose team was in the last two regional tournaments in Division I, was surprised when she saw the brackets.

"That's bizarre," she said of the first-round Brea-Laguna Hills matchup. "The whole seeding thing, it's all for money. It's where they can make the most money.

"Pacifica got a better draw than Laguna Hills. [The state] needed Brea to play a champion, so they needed to pick a champion to play. Where are they going to get the most money? By having two Orange County teams play.

"I think it's more obvious this year than most years, because it kind of screwed them up with Brea losing."

Her conspiracy theory may not be valid, but it does make sense. Hal Harkness, the Southern Section's representative at the pairings meeting, denied money was an issue.

"There was never one thought about that [money]," Harkness said.

Harkness said Brea was dropped to No. 3, instead of No. 2, behind Santee Santana because of recent injuries.

"The reality is that that Brea team isn't the same Brea team without Jill Trader," Harkness said.

Harkness said the Brea-Laguna Hills game was a good matchup.

"One team [Laguna Hills] is on the rise, and one team [Brea] is on the bubble," he said.

Why was Laguna Hills seeded lower than University City?

"In this case," Harkness said, "we may have let one get away from us."


There will always be a question about what might have happened if not for an official's call in the third quarter of Rosary's 69-56 loss to Torrance Bishop Montgomery in the Division III-AA title game.

Trailing, 31-29, after being down, 29-15, Bridget O'Connell was shooting under the basket when an official blew his whistle to accommodate an injured Bishop Montgomery player in the backcourt.

O'Connell's shot went in, but instead the Royals had to take the ball out of bounds. They lost possession, and Bishop Montgomery scored the next 11 points.

"I don't know if it would have made a difference, but it definitely was a moment where momentum might have shifted our way," Rosary Coach Richard Yoon said. "We're a very emotional team."

Rosary, seeded No. 3, host University of San Diego High tonight.



Southern California Regional

First round

Division I, Wednesday

Troy (27-4) at Harbor City Narbonne (30-0)

Long Beach Wilson (29-4) at San Diego Mt. Carmel (23-8)

Lynwood (26-5) at Riverside North (27-3)

Palisades (22-3) at Hanford (30-3)

Division II, Tuesday

Tulare Western (18-9) at Redondo Beach Redondo Union (26-5)

Sanger (20-8) at San Diego University City (23-8)

Brea Olinda (25-6) at Laguna Hills (18-13)

Pacifica (17-8) at Santee Santana (26-5)

Division III, Tuesday

Selma (17-8) at Torrance Bishop Montgomery (25-3)

Mission Hills Alemany (24-5) at Wasco (21-7)

San Diego University (20-8) at Rosary (22-10)

North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (22-8) at San Diego Kearny (16-13)

Division IV, Tuesday

Calvary Chapel (18-8) at La Jolla The Bishop's (25-1)

Morro Bay (16-7) at Taft (23-4)

Bakersfield Garces (15-10) at Cerritos Valley Christian (24-6)

Coronado (18-10) at Playa del Rey St. Bernard (19-6)

Division V, Tuesday

Pacific Hills (19-8) at San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (19-7)

Hemet Baptist Chr. (20-2) at Solana Beach Santa Fe Chr. (27-5)

Visalia Central Valley Chr. (23-3) at Long Beach St. Anthony (23-8)

La Jolla Country Day (10-22) at Pilgrim (27-2)

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