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HIGH SCHOOL REGIONAL BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Poly leaves no doubt this time

Jackrabbits ride a stingy defense to a 67-54 win over Miller to advance to state title game.

March 18, 2007|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Fontana Miller had every reason to believe it could beat Long Beach Poly.

The Rebels had played the state's No. 1 girls' team once before this season, and played them tough into the fourth quarter, only to wilt in the final minutes under the stress of the Jackrabbits' press.

Saturday, playing in its first Southern California Regional final, Miller dominated the final minutes, but failed worse.

Four minutes of great doesn't make up for 3 1/2 quarters of not-so-great play.

So top-seeded Long Beach Poly kept rolling with a 67-54 victory over second-seeded Miller in a game less competitive than the final score. The Jackrabbits (35-1) earned a berth in the state Division I championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Sacramento's Arco Arena against Berkeley, the team it beat for the same title a year ago.

Poly Coach Carl Buggs thought his team's defense was responsible for a lot of Miller's problems. Miller made only 18 of 63 shots (28.6%).

"Our goal was to prevent penetration and the three, and for three quarters, we did a tremendous job," Buggs said. "By the fourth quarter, we were too far ahead."

Miller (33-3) trailed, 55-34, before scoring 20 points in the final 3 minutes 36 seconds.

Candice Nichols and Jasmine Dixon, Poly's two stars, each played fewer minutes than usual because of foul trouble. Still, Nichols scored 17 points and Dixon had 11.

When the teams met in December, in the semifinals of the Chino Hills Ayala tournament, Poly won, 65-59, but the score was tied, 45-45, with 6:30 left.

That gave Miller confidence because it took only 46 shots, about 75% of its average. This time, the Rebels got their shots, but couldn't finish.

"They've been here before, they stayed composed the whole game and they played their game," Miller Coach Mel Wilkins said. "We just couldn't get in the flow. Our defense is ineffective if we can't score."

Lola Wells led Miller with 17 points, and freshman Chloe Wells had 13.

Nicolette Brown had six points and seven rebounds for Poly, and April Cook and Jameia McDuffie each had seven points.

martin.henderson@latimes.com

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