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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Matadors Think Big in Wake of Defeat

Women's basketball: Jerro has several tall recruits to add to returning nucleus next season.

March 16, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — The one-year reign of Cal State Northridge as Big Sky Conference women's basketball champion came to an end with the Matadors' 66-53 loss to host Montana on Saturday in the conference tournament final.

In a no-need-to-hang-their-heads performance, the Matadors made a strong run at upsetting the Grizzlies on their home floor despite the midseason departure of point guard Edniesha Curry.

Instead, Montana preserved to win its 11th Big Sky title in 12 years.

But the Matadors have been to the mountaintop and figure to make another climb.

"We worked so hard to get here," Coach Frozena Jerro of Northridge said. "It was a battle to the stretch and my kids gave it all they had. We have nothing to be ashamed about."

Northridge had more to overcome than the absence of Curry, among the Big Sky's best players.

Freshman Shakira Bryant, Curry's backup, was sidelined because of academic problems and Myesha Saleem suffered a mild concussion in the first half against Montana and did not return.

The season ended with sophomore Daphne Verrept playing point guard. For Verrept, who came to Northridge from her native Belgium, the position was as foreign to her as Southern California.

"Our competitiveness is the bottom line," Jerro said. "Talent, we've always been blessed with that. But these kids have always had a lotta lotta heart. People may be surprised, but we've kept our heads up and hung in there.

"It's a testament to the character of the group. I can't say enough about the job Daphne has done. She's playing out of position and she's playing the most important position on the floor. That's a lot of pressure for a kid to step into and she's doing a remarkable job."

The Matadors came up short this season. But next year might be a different story.

The addition of four post players--three of whom stand 6 feet 4--will make for a collectively larger team.

Front and center figures to be senior Kristi Rose, formerly of Palmdale High and a transfer from Utah.

Rose, who redshirted this season because of NCAA transfer rules, led Utah to three WAC championships.

Incoming freshmen Jennifer Shetters from Portland and Chrystal McCarthy from El Dorado Hills also are 6-4. Ebony Davis, a transfer from Antelope Valley College who redshirted this season, is 6-1.

"We've got some good players coming in," Jerro said.

And a few going out. The Matadors will lose forwards Lynda Amari and Neda Milic, both seniors. Milic led the Matadors in scoring after Curry left. Amari has been the team's best rebounder and inside player the last two seasons.

Then there is Curry.

The 5-6 junior initially met with Jerro regarding her return but ultimately walked away and has indicated she will transfer. Jerro declined to speculate if Curry might return for her senior year.

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