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Underdog Oak Park Tries for Another Championship

Girls' basketball: League and section titlists meet favored The Bishop's today in Southern Regional Division IV final.


OAK PARK — Once more, the Oak Park High girls' basketball team will be the underdog. But the Eagles wouldn't have it any other way.

Oak Park (25-5) has become the Cinderella team of the postseason, advancing to the Southern Regional Division IV championship game against La Jolla The Bishop's (23-6) today at 10 a.m. at the Great Western Forum.

The Eagles, who won their first Southern Section title and first outright Tri-Valley League championship, lack a true post player and have no player taller than 5 feet 10. They have thrived on a combination of moxie, defense, three-point shooting and a flair for the dramatic.

"I like being the underdog," Coach Lindsay Strothers said. "[The Bishop's] is bigger than us, they pressure and trap, and they have a bunch of starters [scoring] in double figures. Other than that, they're just like us."

Michelle Bregar hit a game-winning 18-foot jump shot for Oak Park in a 63-61 victory over Granite Hills on Tuesday in a regional opener.

The Eagles made eight three-pointers in a 57-52 second-round victory Thursday over Morro Bay, the same opponent they scorched for 11 three-pointers in the section final.

Oak Park has been streaky. The Eagles shot 32% against Granite Hills. They were inconsistent against Morro Bay on Thursday before going on a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter and making six of eight free throws in the final 1:03.

Kim Bryan, the Eagles' only senior starter, is shooting 35% from three-point range. She averaged 12.9 points during the regular season.

Bregar averaged 17.7 points and Holly Stewart averaged 11.6 in the regular season.

The Bishop's boasts a balanced attack. Sisters Brianna and Mallorie Winn, daughters of Coach Fentriss Winn, each average 12 points for the Knights, who have four starters with double-figure scoring averages.

Oak Park also will have to contend with the Knights' height. The Bishop's starts four players 5-10 or taller and brings 6-2 freshman Jennifer Barnette off the bench.

"These games don't faze these girls," Strothers said. "They're going to come out and play tough defense. They work hard."

Oak Park has been effective containing post players and slowing down shooting guards. Bregar held standout Morro Bay guard Karena Bonds, who scored 30 in the section final, to 21 points in the rematch.

"The rest of [Ventura] County probably looks at us like we're a miracle team," Bregar said. "We've never won a [section] championship and we've never been to state. We're just having fun. We don't really think about how big this really is."

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