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High Schools | SPOTLIGHT ON GIRLS' BASKETBALL

Long-Distance Plan Works for Ventura

January 15, 2002|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

While warming up before a game, six balls go through the basket, one after another, all originating from beyond the three-point arc. It's the Ventura Cougars and this is largely what they do.

Shoot three-point baskets. A lot of them.

Last season, Ventura made 236 three-point baskets, which exceeded the existing Southern Section record of 218 shared by La Crescenta Crescenta Valley (1995-96) and Chino Hills Ayala (1997-98).

"I inherited a team last year that was set, that had no size, not outstanding quickness, but two or three good shooters, so I said, 'Let's find a strength and really work on it,'" said Ventura's second-year coach, Ann Larson.

It has worked. Last season, Ventura went 20-6, and this season the Cougars are 15-2 and ranked No. 8 by The Times. Last week, they throttled their rival, then-No. 6 Ventura Buena, 63-43, making seven of 15 three-point baskets in the first three quarters to build a 56-31 lead. The Cougars finished eight of 23.

It was an easy transition for Larson to spend the time on shooting. She played for Buena Coach Joe Vaughan and was on his staff 12 years, two as a varsity assistant, 10 as a junior varsity coach. Vaughan, Larson said, always placed a priority on shooting in practice.

"I think a lot of people jump into drills," she said. "You have to be patient, not get too much going on and just let the kids shoot."

Ventura has attempted 480 two-point field goals (making 42.7%) and 481 three-point baskets, making 152 (31.6%). The overall shooting percentage is 37.1%.

Larson said she can't see this style becoming a Ventura trademark, though.

"Our guards are always going to shoot well," she said. "But as I look down the road, there's some big kids coming in. I'm not going to deny myself the use of a 6-foot player. You have to go with the personnel you have and coach with what works best for you."

In this year's lineup, only four players are as tall as 5-9 and only one is as tall as 5-11. Two of the "giants" are freshmen, one's a sophomore, and the other is senior Jenni Dooley. When she realized that her team was changing its style to accommodate the shooters, it immediately struck a chord with Dooley.

"I was excited," she said. "I was always a shooter and thought it would be fun. But you have to make it."

Dooley has made more than most. She made 93 last season. She said even when the Cougars aren't at the top of their game, they still shoot "considerably well."

"It's not very often," Dooley said, "that everybody's having an off night."

Senior guard Katy O'Brien, who is 5-6, agreed.

"We're working with what we have," O'Brien said. "Shooting is what we do, and we do it well."

*

Foothill League protest: Saugus Coach Eric Olsson is the subject of a protest filed by Burbank Burroughs after Saugus scored a 62-45 victory Friday. Olsson drew a technical foul near the end of the first quarter, then was ejected by officials. He went into the locker room.

Burroughs is alleging that Olsson coached the team while in the locker room, a violation.

According to Teri Lord, Saugus athletic director, Burroughs is seeking a forfeiture.

*

Timing is everything: It could be argued that Fullerton Rosary has the toughest regionally based schedule in the Southern Section. It has played eight teams ranked in The Times' top 25, accounting for all eight of its losses.

The Royals don't have any starters back from last year's team, have a leading scorer who is a sophomore, Cara Enright, and often have two freshmen on the court, Karina Figueroa and Teresa Karcher.

They opened Serra League play last Tuesday with a 48-35 victory over then-No. 8 Santa Ana Mater Dei. Rosary outscored the Monarchs in the second half, 21-8.

"We learned how to be just as focused playing three tough games as opposed to being good in just the first game," Rosary Coach Richard Yoon said of the schedule. He hopes it will pay dividends in the Division III-A playoffs.

Said Yoon: "Last year, we got better when we played a succession of tough games."

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