Winning the State Division III girls’ basketball championship was relatively easy for Brea-Olinda High School. The hard part was getting to the Oakland Coliseum Arena.
Mark Trakh, Brea’s coach, decided it would be best to depart for Oakland Saturday morning to avoid what he feared would be “a giant slumber-party situation” for his girls if they traveled on Friday.
When they finally arrived, the Ladycats cruised to a 70-46 victory over San Francisco Mercy to win their first state title. But it was a strange trip to Oakland.
Brea departed from Ontario Airport at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and encountered a heavy storm in the Bay area upon its descent into Oakland. The flight turned into a roller-coaster ride before landing safely.
“The hard part is over, now we can play the game,” Trakh told his players when they arrived. “It got kind of hairy for a while there.”
John Hattrup, Brea’s assistant coach, said the plane shook as if it were in an earthquake and then bounced up and down during the descent.
“We started going back up and Mark turned to me and said, ‘We’re going back up.’ I told him, ‘That’s better than going down.’ ”
Aimee McDaniel, Brea’s gifted point guard, had to calm Trakh during the flight.
“She told me, ‘Relax coach, it’s just a little turbulence,’ ” Trakh said. “I guess that’s why she’s our point guard. She doesn’t worry about anything.”
McDaniel apparently didn’t worry when she missed seven of her first eight shots and had only three points after one quarter. She just kept shooting.
When Mercy trimmed Brea’s lead to 18-12 midway through the second quarter, it got McDaniel thinking.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute, this has got to stop,’ ” McDaniel recalled saying. “ ‘I’ve got to do something.’ The point guard should be taking control, and I wasn’t.”
McDaniel responded by making three consecutive baskets to move the Brea comfortably ahead, 24-12, with 2:26 remaining in the half.
McDaniel’s outside shot was off, so she decided to drive the lane during the scoring streak, and each time she dribbled past two opponents for layups.
McDaniel finished with 22 points, making nine of 22 from the field. She also had nine assists before leaving the game with 1:22 remaining and the state title clinched.
“When I made those three shots, it boosted my confidence,” said McDaniel. “This game was kind of opposite to the way I’ve been playing in the playoffs.
“I’ve been having great first halves and poor second halves. It was nice to have a good second quarter. I took awhile to get comfortable in the arena. I walked in, looked around and said, ‘Holy cow, this is huge, dude.’ ”