If the Point Loma High girls basketball team is the nation's sixth best team, where does that leave Kennedy?
"Not too far behind," Kennedy Coach Craig Raub was saying Thursday night after Point Loma defeated the Golden Cougars, 46-36, in the second round of the Southern California Regionals at Granada Hills High.
Raub couldn't be too upset with his team. After all, the Golden Cougars had given the Pointers a tougher game than many expected. Point Loma, which had earned its lofty national ranking from USA Today, had an average margin of victory of 56 points.
The Pointers (29-1) had crushed Southern Section 3-A champion Brea-Olinda by 24 points in the first round of the regionals Tuesday. More than a few people had tabbed the winner of that game as the favorite for the state title.
But Kennedy, the City Section 4-A champion, didn't roll over for Point Loma, the defending Division I state champion from San Diego.
In fact, with 5:24 left in the game, the Golden Cougars trailed, 38-32.
Then came the key sequence in the game, according to Raub. Point Loma's Michelle Collum grabbed an offensive rebound and scored off a layup to give the Pointers a 40-32 lead.
Raub complained bitterly to the officials that Collum had committed a foul on the play.
Kennedy's Stacy Parson, who led her team with 16 points, then hit a driving layup and was fouled. But the officials ruled that Parson was fouled before the shot, nullifying the basket and sending her to the free-throw line for a one-and-one opportunity.
Parson missed and Point Loma gained possession. Kennedy (21-3) could never get closer than eight points the rest of the game.
"I really thought we had a three-point play from Stacy," said Raub, who spent a good part of the game yelling at the officials.
Collum, a 6-0 senior forward, was a factor for Point Loma, scoring 15 points. Collum helped the Pointers overcome a terrible game by Terri Mann, Point Loma's All-American junior forward.
Mann, who came into game averaging 27 points, scored only 8, hitting 3 of 13 shots.
But the 6-2 Mann teamed with 6-4 Jessica Benton and Collum to make it a long night for Kennedy's post players.
"My big kids totally intimidated them inside," Point Loma Coach Lee Trepanier said.
Raub didn't buy Trepanier's theory that Point Loma had the edge in the paint.
"We got a lot of shots inside," he said, "but they weren't falling." The difference, Raub said, was that Point Loma had one more big girl than Kennedy.
Diane DeCree, Kennedy's 6-0 forward, and Shelley Mercer, the Golden Cougars' 5-11 center, had 11 and 7 points.
DeCree missed all six shots she took in the first half. Twice, Mann blocked DeCree on breakaway layups.
"She was really aggressive," DeCree said of Mann. "We were afraid of her in that she'd get up there and swat our shots away."
Did Mann alter DeCree's shot?
"Yeah," DeCree said. "Big time."
Chanelle McCoy, Point Loma's 5-2 point guard, led everybody with 17 points.
She had 12 by the half, leading Point Loma to a 25-16 lead at the break. Kennedy trailed by six, 34-28, entering the final eight minutes because Parson got hot in the third quarter.
The 5-8 senior made four of her six shots in the quarter to keep Kennedy close.
Point Loma, which has won 85 of its last 86 games, plays Lynwood on Saturday for the Southern California championship at the Sports Arena. Lynwood defeated Delano, 61-41, Thursday night.