Another girls' basketball season is tucked away, giving us . . .
Kristi Smith and Elaine Youngs, 6-1 and 6-0 centers, respectively, who are at their best when they play away from the key.
Christie Wile, a 5-8 point guard who rebounds like a power forward. Ursula Lovely, a 5-8 forward who rebounds like no one you've ever seen.
Denise Ogburn and Tricia Stringam, who have this complicated strategy of running so much and so fast that their opponents give up.
And then there's Carrie Egan, Geri Gainey, Melissa Handley and Serenda Valdez, whose be-everywhere-at-once style of play makes it extremely hard to figure out exactly what position they actually play.
The tags of guards, forwards and centers really don't apply to this bunch. They basically go or do whatever is necessary for their teams to win. Of course, every player would love to do that; the difference is, these players can.
Their skills are so refined, their athletic background so rich, that basketball is much more to them than sitting on the low post block or standing 20 feet away from the basket waving for a pass.
These are the movers and shakers.
Five of them played on teams that reached Southern Section finals, four on Southern Section championship teams. Nine of the 10 led their teams into the playoffs, eight of the 10 played on league championship teams.
But what about?:
You put together any kind of all-star team and you're going to get grief. It's either, "Why wasn't she on?" or "Why was she on?" or "What are you people on?"
It's a tough situation, since we're dealing with opinions, ours and those of the county coaches who completed and sent in ballots they were given. Of course, there are many more than 10 exceptional players in the county.
If there were five additional spots on this all-county team, you'd probably see these names:
Michelle Hennessey, Edison--senior, guard.
Heidi Shikuma, Fullerton--senior, guard.
Julie Standering, Katella--senior, guard.
Suzette Sargeant, Orange--senior, center.
Kelli Moore, Los Alamitos, senior guard.
A decent bunch of players, and a decent season in Orange County girls' basketball. Here is a selective look:
Purple hearts go to Hennessey and Tustin guard Tricia Andres. Hennessey, a three-time All-Sunset League player, played the entire season with injured feet that had to be operated on immediately after the Edison season ended. Considering that Hennessey's style of play is running, running and more running, this is amazing.
Andres, the Sea View League' most valuable player, had to miss the Tillers' last few games because she had pneumonia. But Andres, bundled in sweat suit and towels, sipping liquids constantly, made her way to the Tustin bench for the Tillers' first-round playoff loss to Los Alamitos.
Quick congratulations to Cal Poly Pomona, which successfully recruited nearly a third of The Times All-County team. Egan (Brea-Olinda) has already signed to play under Coach Darlene May, and Ogburn (Edison) and Valdez (Katella) have made verbal commitments to the school.
May has some decent selling points. In 13 years, she's compiled a 341-81 (.808) record and has led Pomona to three Division II championships and five Division II finals.
KRISTI SMITH Edison
It has been said before, but it bears repeating: Kristi Smith changed the power structure of girls' basketball in the county this season. Smith transferred to Edison at the beginning of this school year from Elsinore High. Edison had been a very good small basketball team--one that won with hustle and quickness--but with the 6-foot 1-inch Smith at center, the Chargers were the best in Orange County. Edison was 31-2 and won the 4-A championship. "Kristi Smith was the missing link," said Dave White, Edison coach. "She made a good team a great team." Smith set a school single-season scoring record with 642 points and averaged 10 rebounds a game. She has not decided on a college.
DENISE OGBURN Edison
Unbelievable as it may seem to anyone who has observed Denise Ogburn's style--which varies from frantic to more frantic--there was a time, four years ago, when she was strictly a half-court player. Of course, that was when she was a freshman in Oklahoma, a state that plays basketball with six players, three of whom are forbidden to cross half court. "It really wasn't my style at all," said Ogburn, one of the county's best at making the jump shot off the fast break. With Ogburn and point guard Michelle Hennessey, Edison had the quickest and the best defensive backcourt in the county. A two-time All-Southern Section selection, Ogburn will attend Cal Poly Pomona.
CARRIE EGAN Brea-Olinda
For three of her four seasons as a starter on the Brea-Olinda varsity, Egan has had the county's best outside shot, which has produced a lot of points--more than 1,600--and almost as many gimmick defenses designed to stop her. Egan has helped Brea to the 3-A final three times and to the 3-A championship in 1986. She scored a county-record 56 points this season against Anaheim (a mark later broken by Whittier Christian's Cindy Vyskocil). She also is a very tough player. In her last game, a 59-56 overtime loss to Katella in the 3-A semifinals, Egan was double- and triple-teamed. Running with a limp and with her right leg tightly bandaged, she scored 18 points. Egan will attend Cal Poly Pomona.
GERI GAINEY Mater Dei
What to do with Geri Gainey? She has played guard, forward and a little--very little at 5-feet 8-inches--post position in three varsity seasons at Mater Dei. She has piled up points (1,193), assists (276) and rebounds (386). But before you try to pigeonhole her into one position, watch her dive and run and shoot and scuffle and scream and pump her fist and roam the court, and you'll realize that no one position has been able to contain her. Gainey plays with as much heart as anyone in the county. Those who praise her physical skills usually mention something about her character. "Classic jump shot, great floor leader, great competitor," said Gary Blate, Loara coach. Gainey will join her sister, Mary, at Fresno State next fall.
MELISSA HANDLEY Fountain Valley
It was after the 1985-86 season that Melissa Handley was described in The Times' All-County player profiles as an athlete who played with an "I'd rather throw myself under a truck than lose" attitude. Nothing changed this past season. Handley plays with fast hands, quick feet and a wild eye. "She certainly can change the tempo of a ballgame," said Carol Strausburg, Fountain Valley coach. That's putting it mildly. Handley usually sets the tempo and has exceptional stamina. All of which made it difficult for her to miss six Sunset League games this season because of a leg injury. The Barons were 1-5 without her. She has made an oral commitment to the University of Arizona.
TRICIA STRINGAM Mission Viejo
The sudden rise of Tricia Stringam as a basketball player can be attributed to something her mother noticed when Tricia was playing soccer as a child. "She would run and run and run and never sweat or get tired," Jeannie Stringam said. Stringam, who didn't start playing organized basketball until her freshman year, hasn't changed her game a bit. She is still going strong when others start to fade. She seems to be in a constant rush to the basket. She added a nice jump shot to her repertoire this season, which made her an outstanding offensive player. She made the key jump shot in the last minute of Mission Viejo's 52-50 victory over Katella in the 3-A final, and led the Diablos in scoring with an average of 13.3 points.
CHRISTIE WILE Mission Viejo
To watch Christie Wile play basketball is to watch someone who appears to be in constant torment. She has a pained look, runs flat-footed and always appears winded. Of course, looks can deceive, and in Wile's case, they do. She is one of the county's steadiest and most durable point guards. She is unspectacular, yet unsurpassed at getting the ball to the right person at the right time. Wile, the South Coast League's co-player of the year, set a single-season Southern Section record for assists (298) and led the Diablos to the 3-A championship. Her performance was especially critical to Mission Viejo, which depended heavily on the fast break this season. Wile has not decided on a college.
ELAINE YOUNGS El Toro
Youngs, who is becoming one of the county's most acclaimed athletes, was an All-Southern Section volleyball player. In her first season in organized basketball, 1985-86, she played guard. She switched to center this past season and led her team in scoring and rebounding and was named the South Coast League's co-player of the year. El Toro won a share of the league championship with Mission Viejo, the eventual 3-A champion. "She runs like a deer and jumps like a lizard," said John Hattrup, Mission Viejo coach. "She's scary, she's so good." What may be scarier to other coaches is that she will return next season. According to El Toro Coach Greg Yeck: "She's just scratched the surface of her talent."
URSULA LOVELY Kennedy
Ursula Lovely is one of those players whom coaches love to have on their team. "If I told her to run through a wall, she'd do it," said Rick Albano, Kennedy coach. As far as walls are concerned, Lovely didn't so much run through them this season as carry the Kennedy gymnasium and basketball program. She led the county in scoring (26.4 points a game) and averaged 15 rebounds. A four-time All-Empire League selection, Lovely was chosen the league's most valuable player this past season. A standout in track, she is looking for a college that will allow her to participate in track and basketball. She has a diverse background, having participated in soccer, softball, tennis and flag football.
SERENDA VALDEZ Katella
It's pretty difficult to pick one player from Katella. The Knights, 3-A finalists, are so gung-ho on the team concept that one player seems to blend into another. In fact, when Katella Coach Mickey McAulay informed Valdez that she had been named athlete of the week by a local newspaper, Valdez reportedly answered, "No coach, our team was named athlete of the week." Valdez best exemplified the Katella philosophy this season. An exceptional shooter, she also was one of the team's top defensive players, and she averaged five rebounds. Valdez is an aggressive player, and she always could be counted on to chase loose basketballs. Valdez will attend Cal Poly Pomona next fall.
THE BEST IN THE COUNTY
Name School Year Pos. Hgt. Ppg. Carrie Egan Brea-Olinda Senior Forward 5-8 18.0 Geri Gainey Mater Dei Senior Guard 5-8 15.9 Melissa Handley Fountain Valley Senior Forward 5-10 17.0 Ursula Lovely Kennedy Senior Forward 5-8 26.4 Denise Ogburn Edison Senior Guard 5-5 11.8 Kristi Smith Edison Senior Center 6-1 20.1 Tricia Stringam Mission Viejo Junior Guard 5-9 13.3 Serenda Valdez Katella Senior Forward 5-11 13.7 Christie Wile Mission Viejo Senior Guard 5-7 9.6 Elaine Youngs El Toro Junior Center 6-0 20.1