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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Three-point specialists are longshots at state championships

One Los Angeles coach says the teams that make the most layups and jump shots will have the edge this weekend in the wide-open spaces of Sacramento's Power Balance Pavilion.

March 23, 2011|Eric Sondheimer

When you walk onto the court at Sacramento's Power Balance Pavilion, formerly known as Arco Arena, the three-point line looks appealing to those high school players known for making threes.

Then the game starts and they begin to understand how difficult it is to shoot in an arena setting. That's going to be one of the biggest challenges for the Southern California teams Friday and Saturday in the state basketball championships.

"Whomever makes the most layups and jump shots is going to be victorious," said Los Angeles Windward Coach Miguel Villegas, whose team faces Richmond Salesian on Saturday in the Division IV boys' final.

Villegas knows all about Power Balance Pavilion, because his team won a state title there in 2009. Teams that rely almost exclusively on the outside shot could be in trouble.

"High school kids aren't exposed to it as much," he said. "The pros do it every day. The only team that could have some sort of an advantage is Mater Dei because of the size of their gym."

Mater Dei players haven't shot particularly well in the past in Sacramento, but that was mostly before the Monarchs opened their new gym in 2007. It's close to an arena setting, and Coach Gary McKnight said it has been a huge help preparing for the larger arenas.

One of the few players to shoot well in Sacramento was former Los Angeles Fairfax standout Josh Shipp, who made five three-pointers in the second half of his team's 51-35 victory over Concord De La Salle in the 2004 Division I championship game.

"I think it's the mental state of the player," Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani said. "If you're not mentally focused and almost with a chip-on-your-shoulder mentality, you could go one for 10."

Double trouble

Mater Dei, Windward and Playa del Rey St. Bernard have a chance to win boys' and girls' championships this weekend.

The games are back to back, enabling their fans to root for two teams.

Windward will have at least one rooter bus leaving Los Angeles on Friday at about midnight, getting into Sacramento early Saturday. The girls play at 9:30 a.m., followed by the boys at 11:15 a.m.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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