Ebony Hoffman walked around on one side of the court. Diana Taurasi stood on the other.
About 50 feet separated arguably the nation's two best girls' basketball players. Hoffman, a senior forward for Narbonne, knew Taurasi, a senior guard for Don Lugo, was considered the best by some publications.
Hoffman felt it was time to change some perceptions.
"I want to be the best," Hoffman said. "Sorry to say this about Diana, but she's standing in my way."
On that December night in a tournament at Ayala High, Hoffman scored 30 points and had 15 rebounds in Narbonne's 71-41 victory over Don Lugo. Taurasi had 26 points before fouling out.
It was a typical performance by Hoffman, the best player on the nation's best team.
Narbonne (33-0) is ranked No. 1 by USA Today.
Two weeks ago, the Gauchos defeated Palisades to win the City Section title. Last week, they beat Hanford to win the Southern California regional.
On Saturday, Hoffman and her teammates try to earn the Division I state championship when they play Berkeley at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
Narbonne won the City and state championship games in 1998 but was stripped of those titles for violations related to residence issues. The Gauchos were ruled ineligible for the playoffs last season.
"[A state title] will be a glorious thing, especially to know that this one won't be taken away if and when we do it," she said. "It will mean the world to me."
Hoffman, who has signed with USC, has demonstrated excellence since she arrived at Narbonne. As a freshman, she played on a team that advanced to the City final and regional final before losing to Crenshaw in both games.
In 1998, Hoffman helped Narbonne defeat Palisades in the City championship game and Berkeley in the state Division I final. Last season, she averaged 18.5 points and 15 rebounds.
"She's worked hard to get where she's at," Narbonne Coach James Anderson said. "Everything hasn't just come to her. She runs track in the off-season. Some big kids don't want to do that."
At 6 feet 2, Hoffman has the strength of a center and the agility of a guard.
"She's the best rebounder in the country," Anderson said. "There's nobody even close. I've seen Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson and they're an inch or two taller than her. [Ebony] goes to the rack as hard as they do."
She also has a soft touch.
"What was more impressive about her was that she could shoot from the outside," said Don Lugo Coach Larry Webster.
"I thought we could hold our own against her by denying her the ball. She made two threes in the second quarter and one in the third. I didn't know she could go outside."
Coach Chris Gobrecht of USC focused on recruiting Hoffman after watching her as a sophomore. It led to an intense battle with Tennessee, UCLA and Ohio State, among others.
Gobrecht, who calls Hoffman the school's most important recruit since Leslie, could barely control her emotions when Hoffman committed to USC.
"It was huge, no question," said Gobrecht, who credits Hoffman's signing for landing another top recruit, Aisha Hollans of Berkeley. "Since I arrived in L.A. my whole thought process was 'I want to get [Hoffman].'
"I felt I absolutely had to have her to get this program going."