Perhaps architecture periodicals should start calling Brea-Olinda girls' basketball Coach Mark Trakh.
In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, Trakh's Lady Cats defeated Ventura, 58-51, in the Southern California Regional Division II championship game Saturday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Brea will play for the state title this Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum against Hayward Moreau (30-2).
This is the third consecutive trip to the state finals for Brea, which won the Division III game in 1989 and finished second last year.
"I didn't even expect to be in this game, never mind the state final," Trakh said.
It was Brea's second victory over Ventura, Channel League co-champion, in a week. The Lady Cats beat the Cougars, 50-42, last Saturday in the Southern Section Division II-AA title game at Cal Poly Pomona.
Perhaps the only similarity between the games was that Ventura (25-5) hung tough each time.
At Pomona, Ventura led, 36-35, going into the fourth quarter because of the shooting of guard Cori Herman and forward Denise Rea and because Brea's shooting had been inconsistent to that point.
On Saturday, Brea (32-1) tightened its man-to-man defense and got scoring from unlikely sources.
"We put about three or four different people on Herman trying to wear her down," Trakh said.
Though it varied occasionally, most of the defensive coverage on Herman (17-point average, 19 last week) was handled by junior forward Katie Bauer. She held Herman to four points in the first half, 11 overall.
Bauer also provided an offensive spark and a presence around the boards for Brea, scoring eight of her 10 points and getting six of her seven rebounds in the first half. She didn't score against Ventura last week.
"When we played them at Pomona, our role players didn't hit the shots," Trakh said. "Katie Bauer played like she's capable of playing today."
But she wasn't the only hot hand for the Lady Cats, who shot 48.9% compared to only 38.8% last week. Freshman forward Sarah Beckley, a surprise starter in place of Cathy Lewis, hit on three of her six field-goal attempts and added a free throw. And freshman point guard Nicole Erickson was on target from behind the three-point line.
Erickson, who led Brea with 15 points, connected on four three-pointers from the top of the key and had five assists despite playing only 24 minutes after getting into foul trouble early in the second quarter.
That forced Trakh to move junior forward Jody Anton to point guard, an unfamiliar position. But Anton (10 points) handled the task well until Erickson returned in the third quarter.
"I think everybody came together more because we realized she (Erickson) was out," Anton said.
Erickson got the Lady Cats on the board with her first three-pointer with 5 minutes 4 seconds left in the first quarter after Ventura had taken a 5-0 lead.
The Lady Cats then scored the next six points to take a 9-5 edge, but Ventura led, 13-11, after one quarter.
The teams exchanged runs throughout the second quarter. Ventura scored the final four points of the half to cut Brea's lead to 30-28.
Brea increased the lead to 43-38 after the third quarter, in which Ventura was four for 14 and Brea was six for 10.
Brea's biggest lead was 13, 57-44, in the closing minutes.
Ventura Coach Glenn Gray thought the Cougars' undoing was their poor shooting.
"I think we got some shots, but didn't put them in the hole," he said. "You don't score, it's tough to stay in the ballgame."