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Staying Up for the Playoffs : Gomez Is Getting Her Act Together at Katella

Times Staff Writer

Angie Gomez’s basketball teammates at Katella High School have tabbed her Gogo , because she’s always going; Mags , a skewed acronym for her given name--Maria De Los Angeles Gomez; Street , because of her wild, aggressive style of play, and Moody , because she is--very .

It seems that Gomez, the starting point guard and team smart aleck, sets the mood for the Knights. When she’s in a funk, morale dips on the team.

But she can also swing the team mood upward with a well-placed joke.

Lately, Gomez has decided she’s in the mood for success.

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Gomez, who averaged a bit less than seven points a game during Empire League play, scored 14 points in the Knights’ 50-43 victory over Muir in the semifinals of the Southern California Regional Division II playoffs.

In the championship game, she made nine of 16 shots for 19 points and played aggressive defense to help the Knights come back for a 56-50 victory over Vista.

The Knights’ leading scorer, Joni Easterly, was cold against Vista, and if Gomez hadn’t picked up the slack, Katella probably would not be making a trip to Oakland, Katella Coach Barb Bausch said.

Katella will play Sacramento Grant at 2:45 p.m. Saturday in the Oakland Coliseum for the Division II girls’ state title.

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It’s a game Gomez’s teammates hope she is “up” for.

“I’m trying to not worry about anything because basketball is most important right now,” said Gomez, a 5-foot-6, 132-pound scrappy defensive guard with quick hands who loves to fast break and throw full-court passes.

It has taken most of high school for Gomez, 18, to get a handle on her moods.

She arrived at Katella her freshman year afraid and alone. Because of district boundaries, all her friends from Sycamore Junior High School went to Anaheim High School.

“I didn’t go out for basketball or soccer because I was a wimp,” said Gomez, a senior. But she got a little bolder as the school year progressed and decided to go out for softball. She made the varsity and last season was voted all-Empire League as a left fielder with a .379 batting average. She struck out only eight times all year.

Debbie Harless, the softball coach, was also an assistant basketball coach, and she persuaded Gomez to go out for the basketball team her sophomore year. Gomez did.

She made the junior varsity basketball team and the varsity soccer team, but quit soccer before playing in a game.

“There was more discipline in basketball than in soccer, more togetherness,” Gomez said. “It was more like a team. They were all individuals on the soccer team. We are like a family here. We do everything together.”

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Even interview.

The “family” describes Gomez as everything from awesome to bizarre.

“The word is unpredictable ,” said Easterly, the Knights’ leading scorer with 22 points a game. The unpredictability goes for Gomez’s play as well as her personality.

She alternates between smiles and wisecracks, and what her sister Theresa calls “that mean-dog look.” Gomez, her sister and a life-size poster of Michael Jordan share a room in the family’s comfortable Anaheim home.

“Two games in a row, she’ll do awesome, then she’ll go back to average,” said Ruth Harker, the Knights’ backup point guard.

“She could be awesome every game,” Easterly said. “It’s all in her head.”

“But lately she’s been going up,” said Karri Johnson, a junior forward.

“And she’s not going to go down,” Harker said.

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“She is definitely a special situation,” Bausch said. “You can see Angie does stand out among the team, she is the nonconformist.”

Gomez can go into a mood quickly and take herself right out of a game if she thinks she has been criticized unjustly, Bausch said.

“I really don’t think she knew her importance and how she affected the team,” Bausch said. “Later on, she finally realized her mood or attitude does affect the team.”

Said Gomez, “If I’m mad at one thing, I get mad at everything. I ignore everybody and just go into my own little world.”

It took an iron hand disguised in a kid-gloves approach from Bausch to set Gomez straight.

Bausch has tolerated Gomez’s off-beat humor and tendency to talk back, but she has also kicked Gomez out of practice twice this season and limited her playing time for Gomez’s attitude.

“You can take so much, and when she starts hurting the team, I say forget it,” Bausch said. “If she’s going to screw up the team, we don’t need her around. I showed her we can play without her.

“She thought about it, and I think kicking her out has helped, because it has given her time to think, ‘That wasn’t right what I did, and it hurt the team.’ ”

Gomez says she has learned from Bausch’s discipline. “I changed my attitude the last half of the season. If somebody keeps telling you you have an attitude, it kind of gets old, it kind of gets to your head,” she said.

“Besides, I noticed every time my attitude was bad in practice, I wouldn’t get as much playing time, so I had to change,” she joked.

Said Bausch: "(Two years ago) she talked to basically nobody. She didn’t like to be touched, just left alone. She never smiled. She was just a hard, stern person.

“Last year, (as second-string varsity point guard) she was an individual. Through the past two years, she has learned what a team means. It’s great to see her smile and go and hug somebody now. It’s great to see she knows how to show the team that she cares.”

Bausch has always believed Gomez could average 15 points a game. Getting Gomez to believe was the key.

“In the beginning of the season I didn’t believe I could score points and have a good game,” Gomez said. “But lately I’ve been saying, ‘Yes, I can have a good game.’ I scored high once; why can’t I do it again?”


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