Women: 49ers Are No. 1 Team in the West

Times Staff Writer

The Cal State Long Beach women's basketball team accomplished all the goals that Coach Joan Bonvicini set for the 1984-85 regular season by winning the Detroit Invitational and Long Beach Dial tournaments and the Western Collegiate Athletic Assn. championship.

But those achievements won't seem as significant to Bonvicini unless the 49ers can obtain what she calls "the ultimate goal." Long Beach begins its quest for the national championship Saturday night when the 49ers play host to BYU in the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

"We won't remember the regular season unless we do well in the NCAA tournament," Bonvicini said. "I want to remember our last game this year."

The last two years, Long Beach was eliminated by USC in the West Regional championship game--one win short of the Final Four.

Sunday, the third-ranked 49ers (26-2) were named the top-seeded team in the West region and were seeded fourth nationally.

WCAA rivals USC, UCLA and San Diego State received at-large tournament berths, with the Trojans playing Idaho Friday night in the Sports Arena and the Bruins traveling to Washington to face the Huskies Friday night.

The Aztecs were placed in the Midwest region and will meet Nevada Las Vegas Friday night. If Long Beach and USC win their first-round games, they will meet again on Mar. 21 in the West regional semifinals in Pauley Pavilion. The teams split their regular-season series.

The UCLA-Washington winner will meet the winner of Saturday's Tennessee Tech-Georgia game. The Bulldogs, ranked eighth in the nation but seeded fifth in the tournament, were placed in the West bracket.

Top-seeded Texas joins eighth-seeded Mississippi in the Mideast Region, third-seeded Louisiana Tech and sixth-seeded Northeast Louisiana were placed in the Midwest Region, while second-seeded Old Dominion and seventh-seeded Ohio State are in the East.

The NCAA had seeded four teams in the past but decided to seed eight this year in an attempt to gain more national balance and parity. It could have done so with no seeds.

Unlike last year, when USC had only one close game on the way to its second-straight national championship, there is no clear-cut favorite this year.

"There is a lot of parity around the country, regardless of the seeds," USC Coach Linda Sharp said. "No one or two teams have separated themselves from the rest."

Said Nora Lynn Finch, chairwoman of the Division I women's basketball committee: "Any of the top eight seeds could win it. I could say that about the top 14 teams and be comfortable. Last year, there were not eight teams that you could say had a realistic chance of winning."

Of the three local teams, it would appear that Long Beach has the best shot at reaching the Final Four. The 49ers have won seven straight and are a senior-oriented team behind guards Jackie White and Roslind Boger, forward Kirsten Cummings and center Janet Davis. Sophomore forward Cindy Brown is the 49ers' leading scorer at 20 points per game.

But UCLA is also on a six-game winning streak and is playing its best basketball of the season, and USC has one of the nation's most dominant players in forward Cheryl Miller and plenty of playoff experience.

Then, lurking in the West, is Georgia, which was picked No. 1 in the coaches' preseason poll and has what many consider the most talented team in the nation with All-Americans Janet Harris and Teresa Edwards. The Bulldogs beat USC, 77-56, in January.

UCLA (19-9) has the toughest first-round game. Washington (26-1) is ranked 12th in the nation and has won 21 straight, dating back to its 75-66 loss to Long Beach in the Dial Tournament last December. The Huskies are led by guard Leteia Hughly, who was named the Northern Pacific Athletic Conference's Player of the Year.

The Bruins, ranked 20th, won 10 of their last 11 WCAA games and are coming off Thursday's 57-56 win over USC. They have received excellent play from center Annette Keur, forward Jackie Joyner and guard Anne Dean.

USC, which beat Stanford Sunday and closed the regular season at 20-8, might contend if it can receive consistent play from someone besides Miller. The forward has averaged 27 points and 16 rebounds a game, but she can't win by herself.

"With our playoff experience and the best player in the country, our chances are as good as anyone's," Sharp said.

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