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Morningside Girls Southland Champs : Hold Off Tough Point Loma, 45-44; Boys Lose to Trabuco Hills, 60-57

With a 45-44 victory over Point Loma High School on Saturday night in the Southern California championship game at the Sports Arena, the Morningside High girls’ basketball team continued the shift of power in Division I play.

Point Loma won four consecutive state titles in 1983-87, and now Morningside will now be making its second trip in a row to Oakland for the state championship game next week.

Morningside will meet Fremont High of Oakland for the title. The game will be a rematch of last year’s title game, won by Fremont, 53-52. Morningside avenged that loss with a preseason tournament victory in its seventh game this season.

“I’ll play anybody,” said Morningside Coach Frank Scott upon learning that Fremont was his team’s opponent again this season. “You know, I’m just glad to be there. This time we intend to bring the state championship back.”

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At first it looked like Point Loma might never score. Then it looked like the Pointers might never stop scoring.

Morningside had 17 points on the scoreboard by the time Point Loma scored its first points with 1:48 left in the first quarter.

But Point Loma fought back, got the Monarchs’ 6-5 center, Lisa Leslie, in foul trouble, then took a six-point lead with 2:30 remaining in the third period.

With Leslie on the bench with four fouls most of the third quarter, the Pointers figured to build on their lead. Instead, Morningside climbed back to tie, and reclaimed the lead when Leslie returned with five minutes left to play.

Leslie gave Morningside a 45-44 lead with 53 seconds remaining. Guard JoJo Witherspoon went to the line with 13 seconds on the clock but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Leslie rebounded and also missed her shot.

Point Loma guard Monica Filers then surprised almost everybody by grabbing the rebound, dribbling to half court and launching a shot. The ball bounded off the glass and rolled into the hands of Witherspoon, who started celebrating even though there was still six seconds left in the game.

Time ran out as the Pointers never challenged her.

“She could have traveled; I was watching her and the referees very close, and they just let her get away with it,” said Point Loma Coach Lee Trepanier. “But maybe we should have helped a little by running over to her and pressuring her. But we didn’t.”

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Trepanier said Filer either forgot how much time was left or saw the clock with an 8 and thought it was a 3.

Nevertheless, it was not in his plan for the final seconds.

“I told those kids before Witherspoon went to the free throw line that the cylinder is going to look mighty small to her,” Trepanier said. “And I told her if we got the ball to just take it to the hole. But, hey, they’re kids, and she kind of lost sight of the plan.”

Leslie and Witherspoon, with 11 and six points respectively, got Morningside out to the 17-0 lead, but the Monarchs went cold shortly thereafter.

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“Sometimes that works against you,” Scott said. “You have a tendency to let up, but I knew (Point Loma) would be back because they’re a fine team.”

Filer keyed the Point Loma comeback with 12 second-quarter points and five assists as the Pointers climbed to within 30-27 at halftime.

Point Loma took the lead by scoring the first nine points of the third period, but baskets by Janet Davis, Denesha Carnell and Bridget Williams helped Morningside tie the game going into the final period.

The Monarchs (32-1) were led by Leslie’s 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Witherspoon had nine and Davis eight.

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Point Loma (31-2) was paced by Filer’s 20 points and nine assists. Chris Drumm contributed 10.

“Give them the credit,” Trepanier said of Morningside. “With Leslie on the bench, they fought back to tie the game on us and that’s a tribute to them.”

That roller-coaster of emotion, the Morningside High School boys’ basketball team, was in full swing again Saturday afternoon at the Sports Arena, taking its fans to dizzying heights, then dropping them into an abyss of defeat.

The Monarchs, ahead by 10 points with five minutes left in the game, saw their lead--and their travel plans for the state finals in Oakland--disappear when Trabuco Hills fought back for a wild 60-57 victory in the Southern California Division III finals.

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Now it is Trabuco Hills that will go to Oakland, while Morningside, reprieved after losing in the semifinals of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs, goes back to Inglewood with a 25-6 record.

Morningside trailed by 14 points early in the game but charged back to open up a 51-41 lead with 5:35 remaining. Then Trabuco Hills, with three-point shots by guards Chad Poulos and Luis Arenado and a basket and free throw by center Rick Swanwick, cut the lead to 51-50 barely two minutes later. The Runnin’ Mustangs hit eight straight free throws in the final 2:25 to seal the victory.

“With a 10-point lead we felt confident, and for a little bit, when we sagged off them on those three-pointers, I felt there was a little relaxation on our part,” said Morningside Co-Coach Ron Randle.


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