The Brea-Olinda High School girls’ basketball team won its first state championship Saturday. And, boy, was it ever anticlimactic.
The Division III championship game against San Francisco Mercy at the Oakland Coliseum Arena was a little closer than recent 30-point blowouts, but there was little doubt Brea would win.
Certainly, the Brea fans knew what was to come--a 70-46 runaway. As has become their custom in the playoffs, they started singing “Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey, goodby” as soon as Brea-Olinda took the lead early in the first quarter.
The Ladycats went on to open a 16-point lead at halftime, watched as Mercy got to within nine in the third quarter, then pulled away.
Brea (31-2) finished its season unbeaten against California schools. Its only two losses came in the Christ the King tournament in New York City in December. Brea is the first Orange County girls’ team to win a state title. Mission Viejo, in 1982, is the only other county girls’ team to play in a state title game.
Mercy, which came into the game as the tournament’s only unbeaten team, finished 31-1.
When Mark Trakh, Brea’s coach, removed the last of his starters with 38 seconds left, they donned T-shirts that read: Brea-Olinda Ladycats 1989 State Champions.
Then when the buzzer sounded, the Ladycat players ran onto the court and embraced each other. But other than that, Brea’s victory seemed almost routine.
None of Brea’s playoff games, except for a seven-point victory over Lakewood St. Joseph in the Southern Section 3-A semifinals, had the intensity of a game against Orange League rival Valencia.
Brea came into the state title game with a 34-point average margin of victory in its past four games. And that included the Southern Section and Southern Regional championship games.
Only in the third quarter Saturday, when Mercy cut into Brea’s 28-12 halftime lead, did the game feature any drama.
Mercy got to within 37-28 with 1:42 left in the quarter, but then Brea’s Aimee McDaniel got hot.
McDaniel, a junior guard, made two consecutive pull-up jumpers. Then, after a basket by Mercy’s Jovonne Smith, McDaniel added a driving layup to push Brea’s lead back to 43-30.
“I don’t know if our kids thought it was over or what,” Trakh said. “I told our kids at halftime to watch out, that they would come back.”
McDaniel had 22 points, most on outside jumpers. Jinelle Williams, a 5-foot-8 center, had 23 points to lead Brea. She had little trouble contending with Angel Mahan, Mercy’s 6-2 center, driving easily around Mahan repeatedly.
“I looked up at her a couple of times--she was (looked) intimidating,” Williams said. “But she didn’t do anything.”
Brea’s Jody Anton (eight points, 10 rebounds) and Cindy Gunn (four points and seven rebounds) also had an easy time of it inside. Even McDaniel, just 5-6, was able to get nine rebounds.
Smith, who will play at Arizona State next season, had 20 points and Mahan added eight for Mercy.
“We started to get the ball to our key players (Smith and Mahan) in the third quarter,” Mercy Coach John Kerwin said. “We tired out when we got it down to nine. We started to give up a lot of cheap stuff after that.”
The first half was a disaster for Mercy.
The Skippers made just five of 24 shots from the field (20.8%) in scoring a season-low 12 points. Mercy seemed a step slow and couldn’t stay with Brea.