Morningside arguably has the most dominant girls basketball player in the state in 6-5 center Lisa Leslie. The problem for the Lady Monarchs, at least in the postseason, has been keeping Leslie out of foul trouble.
It’s become one of the concerns of Morningside Coach Frank Scott as his team prepares to meet Oakland Fremont in the state Division I championship game Saturday night at 6:15 at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.
In seven Southern Section and Southern California Regional playoff games, Leslie has fouled out twice and been forced to sit out lengthy parts of four other games after picking up early fouls. She sat out most of the second and third quarters Saturday night in Morningside’s 45-44 win over Point Loma in the regional final.
“I’ve talked to her about it,” Scott said. “If the officials are going to call it one way, she has to try something else because we need her in the ballgame. When she’s in the game it creates a different atmosphere because the other team has to worry about her.”
Morningside suffered from Leslie’s absence Saturday. After opening a 17-0 lead, the Lady Monarchs struggled when Leslie was benched with three fouls early in the second quarter. Point Loma rallied and pulled within 30-27 at halftime.
Considering that Leslie was rarely in foul trouble during Morningside’s sweep through the Ocean League, Scott reasons that inconsistent officiating has hurt her in the postseason.
“Some of the officials in our league let a lot of things get by,” he said. “In the playoffs you get better officials who are going to spot these things. . . . As big as she is, officials are going to see her first. Some of the calls have been questionable.”
Nevertheless, Scott is stressing to Leslie that she needs to become more cautious on defense, where she has picked up most of her fouls. He realizes Morningside can ill-afford to lose her 27 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots a game with the state title on the line.
Because of Morningside’s success in the playoffs, Scott has been unable to devote any time coaching the Monarch baseball team. Assistant Thomas Robinson is coaching until Scott returns.
Scott knows it’s not a good situation for a program that has struggled in recent years, but he says there is no alternative because of the overlapping seasons and a lack of baseball coaches at the school.
“We’ve tried to find another (baseball) coach,” he said. “But the job doesn’t pay that much, so it’s hard to find takers.”
Scott’s absence has forced Morningside to forfeit its junior varsity games because Robinson, the JV coach, is handling the varsity. Scott plans to take next week off and will begin coaching the baseball team “a couple of days” before Ocean League play starts March 29.
With that in mind, it might be difficult for the Monarchs to improve on last year’s 6-14 record and last-place finish in the league. They took a 1-1 record into today’s non-league game at Dominguez.
St. Bernard’s baseball team will bring a 30-game league winning streak, the second longest in Southern Section history, into its Camino Real League opener Saturday at Bosco Tech.
With five more wins, the Vikings can break the record of 34 straight Moore League victories by Lakewood from 1973 to ’76. St. Bernard, which was 14-0 in the Camino Real League each of the last two years, has not lost a league game since falling to Cantwell, 5-4, in 13 innings in 1986.
“The players are aware of it,” said Coach Bob Yarnall, who has guided St. Bernard to a 40-2 league record in three years. “They know (the streak) has been passed on since 1986. They don’t want to disappoint the previous players on the team.”
If the Vikings keep the streak going, they can set the record April 12 against Serra. That’s one game before they meet El Segundo, considered St. Bernard’s main challenger for the Camino Real title.
Yarnall says his players are looking forward to that meeting. This is El Segundo’s first year in the league.
“We don’t want to stop at 35,” he said. “We want to beat El Segundo.”
Hawthorne sprinter Curtis Conway didn’t pass up an opportunity to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test last weekend, even though he was in Maryland to run in the National Indoor Track Championships at the Naval Academy on Sunday.
It was the third time Conway has taken the SAT. He needs to score 700 in order to accept a football scholarship from USC. The All-Southern Section quarterback signed a letter of intent with the Trojans in February.
After taking the test Saturday at an Annapolis area high school, Conway went out the next day and helped the Cougars set a national prep record of 1:28.25 in the 880-yard relay. Conway ran the anchor leg in 21.5 seconds as Hawthorne established the school’s fifth national record.
Conway also turned in an impressive anchor time of 47.6 in the mile relay. Hawthorne took third in 3:23.3.
Two other Hawthorne athletes performed well in the meet. Anthony Smith ran 21.6 on the second leg of the record-breaking 880 relay and long jumped 24-4 1/2 while Eric Tolbert posted a lifetime-best mark of 55-4 in the shot put. The Cougars competed unattached because of Southern Section rules.
Inglewood’s Harold Miner, considered one of the most versatile basketball players in the South Bay, did nothing to hurt his reputation by taking second in the school’s senior spelling bee.
The USC-bound swingman led the area in scoring this season with a 29-point average. Finishing close to Miner were two of his Bay League rivals--Torrance guard Rick Robison (28.6) and Rolling Hills center John Hardy (27.7).
Hardy was named the league’s most valuable player, while Miner and Robison were chosen co-most outstanding.
PREP NOTES--Lisa Leslie, a junior whom many consider the premier prep center in the country, became the first Morningside player named to the Parade All-American first team. Forward Shaunda Greene, the 1988 Southern Section 5-A Player of the Year, was the first Lady Monarch selected a Parade All-American. She was a third-team choice last season. . . . Left-hander Victor Darensbourg allowed six hits and struck out 12 Tuesday to lead Westchester to a 9-4 win over Venice in a Coastal Conference baseball opener. It was the first loss for Venice (5-1), which won the Red Division title of the Westside Tournament last week. . . . Freshman shortstop Grant Hohman continued his hot hitting for St. Bernard by driving in four runs Tuesday in a 23-2 non-league victory over Murphy. Hohman, who bats cleanup, leads the Vikings with eight RBIs and entered the week hitting .467. . . . Mira Costa (3-0, 1-0 in Ocean League) remained No. 1 in the Southern Section 4-A volleyball coaches poll this week. The Mustangs play host to North Torrance at 7:30 tonight in a key Ocean match. . . . Artesia captured the championship of the El Segundo Baseball Tournament with a 6-3 win over Westminster on Saturday night.
South Bay’s Baseball Top 10
Selected by Times Sportswriters Through Tuesday’s Games
Rank, School, League: Record
1 St. Bernard (Camino Real): 5-1
2 Bishop Mont. (Angelus): 7-0
3 El Segundo (Camino Real): 3-2
4 Banning (Pacific): 4-2
5 Redondo (Ocean): 3-2
6 San Pedro (Pacific): 3-3
7 Westchester (Coastal): 3-3
8 Hawthorne (Bay): 3-2
9 Leuzinger (Bay): 2-2
10 Rolling Hills (Bay): 3-3