"I think we have a team that, on any given day, can beat anybody. We're that good," said Warren Flanagan, coach of the Culver City High girls basketball team.
Flanagan's team had a 20-1 record as the week began and was ranked sixth in the state by the Cal-Hi Sports newsletter. The one loss was to Compton, 19-0 and ranked first in California by Cal-Hi and seventh in the nation by USA Today. The latter publication did not mention Culver in its top 25 or in the "also under consideration" category in its mid-January ratings.
Culver wasn't "that good" on the "given day" that Compton handed the team its only loss, 52-43, in the second game of the season. The quick Tarbabes got off to a 19-6 lead in the first quarter. Though Culver cut it to three points, it couldn't overcome the big early lead. Flanagan said it was, nevertheless, a good game but that Compton had too much speed for his charges.
Team speed is something that Flanagan, who spent 20 years coaching football at Culver, has not had a lot of since he began coaching girls basketball in 1976.
He's Had Stars
But he has had quick players--and a lot of talent, including Merja Connolly, who turned to volleyball and helped UCLA win a NCAA title last season; Donna Curtis, also a star runner and the 1981 state prep champion at 800 meters, who won a track scholarship to USC, and Jackie Shackelford, who received a basketball scholarship to Nebraska.
In football, none of Flanagan's teams won a CIF championship until 1978, when the squad he coached with Dick Billingsley (now at Beverly Hills High) went 13-0 and took the Northwestern Conference title. But Flanagan, who retired from full-time coaching about six years ago, won a league championship in girls basketball in 1976, his first year in that sport, and his 1979 team, paced by Connolly and Curtis, won the CIF 1-A basketball championship.
Can this year's team win a 4-A title, which would probably mean beating Compton or defending state champion Buena or a strong Muir squad, even though those teams are rated ahead of Culver in CIF rankings?
About the only people who think Culver could beat Compton are the Culver girls. Like most coaches, Flanagan is wary about predicting what his team will do. As for a CIF title, he said, "There are a lot of good teams, and one game and you're gone."
Full of Confidence
But Stacey Schipper, Culver's 6-2 senior center, is undaunted, and she gets support from two other star seniors: 6-2 junior forward Shari Netzel and 5-9 guard-forward Lynn Richardson.
Schipper (pronounced Skipper) was asked if Culver can go all the way, and she replied, "Definitely, I don't see anything that can stop us. I think we can do it if we set our minds to it. We're going to have to develop a mental attitude in order to develop our goals."
The confidence of the three stars stems from long association. They have been playing together since the ninth grade, each also played basketball before that in Culver City Parks and Recreation leagues, and Netzel and Schipper have been together as top volleyball players since the fifth grade.
Among their goals is to play college basketball. Each is being recruited by many colleges, and Richardson has signed an early letter of intent with UCLA.
Netzel, who said she has received letters from more than 60 colleges, and Schipper, who said that she has gotten more than 50, were not ready to sign early letters of intent in basketball because they were hoping for scholarships that would allow them to play basketball and volleyball.
Netzel Chooses Basketball
But Netzel recently decided to stick with basketball, and Schipper, though she is "open to both sports and would love to combine them," said she will probably concentrate on basketball also.
Netzel and Schipper usually rebound in double figures, and they and Richardson, who usually tops the team in assists and steals, are scoring in double figures, along with 5-10 sophomore forward Nina Revoyr, who has missed several games with a sprained ankle but has returned.
Richardson's scoring average as the week began was 16.5 points, and Netzel was averaging about 15, Revoyr 11.5 and Schipper 11.1.
Balanced scoring is good for a team, but those figures are not the kind that seem to catch the eye of those who pick the All-CIF teams. Last year Netzel was a second-team All-CIF selection after she led her team in scoring with an 18.4-point average as the team finished with a 21-4 record. Culver was eliminated by undefeated state champion Buena, 55-30, in the CIF quarterfinals.
'Crime If They Didn't'
Flanagan said Netzel and Richardson should make first-team All-CIF this year. "It would be a crime if they didn't, but they go so much by points."
Richardson is probably the team's best athlete, and it is usually her sharp passes that set up baskets for teammates. And "quick as a flash" is probably too long a phrase to describe her.
In a recent game, she stole the ball from a guard who was trying to bring it up court and went in for a layup. When the opposing guard tried it again, Flanagan shouted to Richardson to call for a timeout and, while Richardson was drifting over to the bench to see if she had heard right, she stole the ball again and scored.
Though Netzel is skillful and has a fine outside shot, she has been criticized for not being aggressive enough--for being too much of a lady on the court.
Must Become Tougher
She will probably have to get tougher to play major college basketball, and she knows it. "That's what everybody says, and, most definitely, I think I can," she said. She has narrowed her choice of colleges to Nevada Las Vegas, Arizona, Arizona State, UC Irvine and Hawaii.
On the other hand, Schipper said, "My biggest asset is aggressiveness and I'm good at rebounding, but I need to improve my quickness. One day I'd like to learn how to shoot from the the outside, become a power forward and play both inside and outside." Among the schools who have shown interest in her, she said, are Idaho, South Carolina, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Texas and Florida.