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Troy Steps Up to Knock Down Ventura Buena

Division I-A: Warriors frustrate top-ranked Bulldogs to win, 58-51.


Ventura Buena came into the game with the reputation, but Troy left with the victory.

The Warriors handed Buena, top-ranked in the state and most other polls, its first loss of the season, 58-51, in the final of the Southern Section Division I-A girls' basketball playoffs Saturday at the Pyramid in Long Beach.

It was Troy's first victory in a title game after lopsided losses to Buena in 1998 and 2000.

Buena (28-1) seemed invincible again this season but Troy (27-4) matched the Bulldogs' quickness and discipline, almost matched their impressive size and managed to get Buena's top three players in foul trouble.

North Carolina State-bound center Kelly Greathouse, Tennessee-bound guard Courtney Young and junior forward Courtney LaVere had combined for 5,137 career points and 2,654 rebounds, but they combined for nine fouls in the second half Saturday.

Troy also got into foul trouble. All five starters had four fouls, including leading scorer Veronica Johns-Richardson, who sat out 2 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter.

Soon after Johns-Richardson returned with 4 minutes 35 seconds left in the game, she made a three-pointer to put the Warriors up, 56-43. She finished with 19 points.

"It finally came together," Johns-Richardson said of her first title in three trips to the Pyramid. "I'm finally going to get my hardware."

Alicia Komaki scored 20, keeping Buena at bay while Johns-Richardson was on the bench in the fourth quarter. Komaki dribbled through an intense press and made a three-pointer, her fourth in seven attempts.

"It seemed so easy for some reason," Komaki said. "No pressure at all."

Buena's foul trouble and Troy's impressive full-court press and physical inside play left the Bulldogs helpless and frustrated.

Greathouse, the Bulldogs' 6-foot-3 center, picked up her third foul in the first minute of the second quarter and sat out the rest of the half.

Greathouse, averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds, had 11 points and five rebounds.

By the end, Greathouse and guard Emily Lewis had fouled out, the 6-2 LaVere had four fouls and guards Young and Lauren Sargent each had three.

Troy Coach Kevin Kiernan said Troy had to exploit its advantage with its guards, Komaki and Johns-Richardson.

"We knew Buena had the advantage with their posts, but if it was close, fine," Kiernan said. "Our guards had to come up big. And they did. Veronica and Alicia were playing off each other so well, running the team, hitting the three-pointers. Everything."

The victory is Troy's 17th in a row since losing two in a row at the Orange County Championship. In those games, Johns-Richardson was sick in a loss to Esperanza, and sat out because of the illness in a loss to Irvine.

Because of that week in December, Kiernan believed his team had to beat Buena in order to advance to the Southern California Regional playoffs, which begin Tuesday.

Kianey Givens-Davis, whose responsibility, along with Amanda Livingston, was to control Buena's post players, said she knew she had to do a good job.

"We knew we had to play flawless defense," she said. "There were moments when we had lapses. We didn't play a perfect game, but we played a good game. A very good game."

Times staff writer Martin Henderson contributed to this story.

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