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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Courting Success

Versatile Guard Renae Hoffman Does It All For No. 1 Ventura College

March 09, 2000|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA — The basketball player looked dumbfounded.

She had just tried to throw a pass over Renae Hofmann, who stood no more than four feet away, eyes fixed on her prey.

Hofmann leaped high, snatched the ball and drove nearly the length of the court for a layup.

In a flash, the dazed player and her team learned what others have come to realize about Hofmann, a Ventura College sophomore guard:

She is not your average player.

"She does everything really well," said Ned Mircetic, Ventura's coach. "She can get six or eight points and still have a great game because she does so many things."

The 5-foot-8 Hofmann puts her skills on display today at the women's state championships at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, where the Pirates (35-0) meet Solano (24-12) in a quarterfinal game.

She hopes to stick around for the semifinals Friday at the same court and the final on Saturday at University of the Pacific.

The top-ranked Pirates are seeking their third state title in five years and an unprecedented second undefeated championship season.

Hofmann knows the Pirates are expected to win it all, but she doesn't want to get caught looking too far ahead.

"We know we are the favorites," Hofmann said. "But we don't want to take anything for granted."

Neither Solano, the No. 4-seeded team from Northern California, nor anyone else should take Hofmann lightly.

The former Buena High standout is Ventura's most complete player. She is a great ballhandler with a good shot, and a tenacious defender who uses her cat-like quickness to rob opponents.

Hofmann averages 12.9 points and leads the team with 133 assists and 102 steals.

"I like the mixture of sometimes being a shooting guard and sometimes a point guard," she said. "I love passing and I like to shoot."

In Mircetic's revolving-door substitution pattern, Hofmann is not on the floor the entire game, but she's there for most of it because of her versatility.

The constant shuffling of players to wear down opponents, which Mircetic employs because the Pirates are deep, doesn't seem to allow players to get a rhythm.

Moreover, they have to adjust their assignments repeatedly, depending on what players are on the floor.

Hofmann said it took a while for the players to grasp the system, but it's all second-hand to them now.

"Most of the time, as long as you keep your focus, it's not difficult," Hofmann said. "It can be hard if you lose your focus."

Not much of a chance for the intense Hofmann to do that.

"She prepares for practices, she prepares for games," Mircetic said. "She's been improving throughout her two years here."

Hofmann was a Times' All-Ventura County selection and the Channel League player of the year at Buena in 1997-98, her senior season, after averaging 14.5 points and leading the Bulldogs to the Southern Section Division I-A semifinals.

But only two four-year colleges pursued Hofmann and each wanted her to walk on. She declined and chose Ventura, the most dominant program in the state.

With Hofmann in the backcourt, the Pirates came within three points of defeating Sierra in the state final last season. She was disappointed, but not dejected.

"It wasn't a bad feeling," Hofmann said. "We played to the best of our ability. We had played Sierra earlier in the season and got blown out."

Last Friday, she made sure the Pirates got another chance at reaching the state championships, scoring 26 points in Ventura's 94-56 victory over Cypress in the Southern California Regional final.

Starting today, she is on the prowl again, looking for easy marks to pick clean.

"She not only knocks down and deflects passes from the person she's guarding, but she starts fastbreaks out of them," Mircetic said. "She's done it a few times."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS

* WHO:

Ventura (35-0) vs.

Solano (24-12)

* WHAT:

Junior college women's basketball quarterfinal game

* WHEN:

Tonight, 6

* WHERE:

San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton

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