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Narbonne Shifts Into High Gear to Win, 74-25

January 13, 2002

For the first 21/2 minutes, the Gardena High girls' basketball team held its own against defending City Section, state and national champion Harbor City Narbonne. After that, the Gauchos shifted to a higher gear and cruised to an easy 74-25 Marine League victory Saturday afternoon at Harbor College.

Narbonne (12-3 overall, 2-0 in league) fell behind, 4-3, but outscored the Panthers 39-7 for the rest of the first half, including a 22-0 run to end the second quarter. The Gauchos were ranked No. 1 in the country at the start of the season, but three losses to national powers have opponents believing Narbonne is vulnerable.

"I wish we could've started the season right now because our offense is really clicking," said Wilnett Crockett, a 6-3 senior center for the Gauchos who has signed with Connecticut. "But in a way it's good that we lost those games because if we were undefeated we'd probably be very overconfident. Instead, we're motivated to prove ourselves. As far as we're concerned, it's put up or shut up time from now on."

Crockett led all scorers with 15 points and had 12 rebounds. Indi Johnson scored 14 and Jamie Funn added 13 for the Gauchos, who are ranked No. 2 by The Times. Alexis Johnson and Miesha Parker each had six points for Gardena.

After winning two preseason tournaments and routing Wilmington Banning, 79-28, in their league opener, the Panthers (15-2, 1-1) appeared ready to challenge Narbonne's supremacy. Instead, they reaffirmed it.

"I don't know how confident we were but we were looking forward to this game," Gardena Coach Ralph Lepore said. "Their size hurt us and so did their full-court press. We didn't handle that well at all."

Gardena had 29 turnovers and made only nine of 30 free throw attempts.

Since joining the Marine League in 1998, Narbonne has won 42 consecutive league games.

Steve Galluzzo

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