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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Matadors Will Try to Repeat 1999 Feat

Basketball: Without Curry, Northridge faces huge task of retaining hold on conference title.

March 09, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MISSOULA, Mont. — No Edniesha Curry, no Big Sky Conference championship.

That's been the consensus, at least, of the impending fate of the Cal State Northridge women's basketball team since Curry, the Matadors' best player, quit the team in January over a disagreement with Coach Frozena Jerro and her assistants.

Without Curry, Northridge (17-9) opens defense of its Big Sky title tonight against Idaho State (14-14) in a tournament semifinal at Montana's Adams Center.

Northridge is 6-4 since Curry's departure but has not resembled the team that shocked observers last season by rolling to its first Big Sky title after compiling a 13-3 conference record.

The junior point guard from Palmdale High left the team after a 60-46 loss at Montana on Jan. 21. After the game, Curry and coaches argued and Curry was dismissed from practice two days later.

After meeting with Jerro, Curry, Northridge's career three-point-basket leader with 168, decided against returning and has indicated she will transfer.

In the preseason conference poll Northridge was picked to repeat as champion. The Matadors rallied to finish second to Montana and earned a first-round bye.

Without Curry, the Big Sky's most valuable player last season, Northridge players acknowledge repeating will be difficult.

Northridge is 1-5 in games at Adams Center and the Matadors have never beaten the Grizzlies on their home floor.

Montana (20-7) plays Weber State (13-13] today in another semifinal. The winners meet for the conference championship on Saturday.

"We were hoping for first, but we didn't get it," said Lynda Amari, a senior forward and the Matadors scoring leader since Curry's departure.

Amari averages 12.6 points and Neda Milic averages 7.1 rebounds for Northridge. Both were selected to the all-conference team this week.

"We're in good position," Amari said. "I think everything is all right now. At first it was hard, for the first couple of games [without Curry]. But I think we all got it together."

Northridge closed the regular season with momentum, winning three of four on the road.

The streak included a 65-49 victory over Montana at Northridge three weeks ago. In that game, Milic scored 19 and Amari had 17.

"We've just come off three weeks of road trips and, spending that much time together, we've bonded and become stronger," forward Leah Rice said. "Of course, it's going to be hard, losing a good player. But we just have to go on."

Northridge split two games against Idaho State this season. The Matadors are making their third consecutive appearance in the Big Sky tournament.

Northridge lost to Northern Arizona in the semifinals in 1998.

"I think this is anybody's tournament," Jerro said. "There are a lot of good teams. What we've tried to do the past week is focus on ourselves."

Senior Linda Weyler of Montana was selected Big Sky player of the year. Weyler averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds in conference play and ranks 20th on the Big Sky career rebounds list with 579.

*

BIG SKY WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT

Wednesday's Scores

Idaho State 55,

E. Washington 46

Weber State 62,

N. Arizona 60

Today's Games

Northridge vs.

Idaho St., 6:05 p.m.

Weber State vs.

Montana, 8:05 p.m.

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