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Bishop Amat Grabs Its Time in Spotlight

Overshadowed for years by Bishop Montgomery, the Lancers, led by Erin Myrick, will play for the Division II girls' basketball state title.

March 19, 2004|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

La Puente Bishop Amat has finally stepped out of the shadow of four-time state champion Torrance Bishop Montgomery.

And after years of playing second fiddle to Noelle Quinn, Bishop Amat's Erin Myrick finally finds herself in the first chair.

Myrick and her Bishop Amat teammates will get a chance to win their first girls' basketball state title Saturday, which would be the fifth in a row for a Del Rey League representative.

Myrick, a 6-foot-2 forward, has bided her time and now can shine on high school's biggest stage.

"She's been a good leader and a terrific player for four years," said Richard Wiard, in his ninth season as Lancer coach. "She brings a very good offensive force inside. When she's playing well defensively, it makes it very difficult for opponents."

Wiard added that he was sure Texas Tech, where she is headed this fall, "sees someone who can run the floor a little bit, and she shoots better than average for a girl that size."

To win the Division II state title at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Bishop Amat, ranked No. 12 in the state, has its work cut out. The Lancers' opponent, Stockton St. Mary's (31-4), is ranked No. 2 in the state.

"I think I've played better in the more important games, the more challenging games," said Myrick, the most highly recruited player in the program's history. "I don't know why that's been, it's just the way it happened for me."

She has averaged 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in seven playoff games. Part of the credit should go to 5-11 senior forward Chasmine Jones.

"A lot of times at the high school level, you can defend one good inside offensive player, but when you have that second one, it becomes a tough matchup," Wiard said.

"Chas is a good passer, like Erin, and when we play our high-low game.... "

When they play their high-low game, they tend to embarrass teams. They had it working Saturday in the Southern California Regional final and beat Inglewood Morningside, 71-51, despite the Monarchs' two big-time post players, Lorie Rayford and Natasha Thomas.

Myrick had 18 points, six rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots, and Jones had 13 points, five rebounds and two assists.

"She's essential to my success," Myrick said of Jones. "I played one game without her this season, and it was just horrible."

That game was a 53-44 loss to Riverside North, the worst for the Lancers, who also fell to Long Beach Wilson and Bishop Montgomery.

Bishop Amat's success hasn't come easy. The Lancers have held practice this season inside a tent while the school builds a gymnasium.

Myrick said the practice conditions have been the worst thing about her final high school season.

"If it's 100 degrees outside, it's 100 degrees hotter inside," she said. "If it's cold, it's 100 degrees colder. The floor is terrible. It comes up when you're running."

There's reason to believe that the Lancers, who have survived the tent, can get past any hurdle.

They have won 30 games for the first time in school history. They defeated Bishop Montgomery for the first time in five seasons. And they have victories over all three teams that beat them.

St. Mary's is just another obstacle in a season of firsts.

Though no one appears intimidated by the Lancers, they do have elements for success.

They're experienced, with four seniors and junior guard Jessica Carrera. Guards Carrera, Amelia Alvarez and Mariel Alvarez can knock down the three-point shot, and they have withstood the press of more athletic teams such as Pasadena Muir, a team they beat three times, twice in the playoffs.

"Erin does make us taller than most teams," Wiard said. "We don't have tremendous athletes, but we have some skilled players who play really well together....

"Outside of Erin Myrick, if you lined us up one at a time, I don't think there's anybody who would really scare you, but they play really well as a team."

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