Freshmen Seem to Ensure Brea Will Keep Going and Going and Going

Moments after they earned a trip to the state basketball championship Saturday afternoon, a couple members of the Brea-Olinda girls' basketball team began to chat about the future.

Circa 1994.

Even though their senior years are still three years away, freshmen Nicole Erickson and Sarah Beckley know they're the core of what has been designated as Brea basketball's most talented ninth-grade class.

Their potential, they're often told, is nothing less than awesome.

Such expectations can scare the bejeebers out of anyone, especially freshmen. But these two handle it with a smile and a shrug.

"We're just going to kick butt," said Erickson, Brea's steady 5-foot-6 point guard. "We want to be the No. 1-ranked team in the country by our senior year."

Easily said, sure. But if anyone can guide a team anywhere, it might be Erickson.

She talks tough and plays the same way.

Erickson and Beckley combined for 22 points in Brea's 58-51 victory over Ventura in the Southern California Regional Division II championship game Saturday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

Playing in a pressure-packed game was nothing new for Erickson. She has been the starting point guard all season. But Saturday was the first start for Beckley, a 5-10 forward.

"I wasn't really nervous, but it was a little overwhelming," said Beckley, a curly haired quiet type.

"When (Brea Coach Mark Trakh) told me in practice I was going to start today, I was totally excited. It made me push harder in practice. I didn't want him to be disappointed with his decision."

Beckley offered little reason for disappointment.

In 26 minutes, she chipped in seven points and four key rebounds and held her own on defense.

Suddenly, the fact she's "just a freshman" was forgotten.

Erickson was her usual impressive self. She opened each quarter with a three-point basket, finishing with 15 points despite sitting out the final six minutes of the first half with three fouls.

She had just four turnovers in 24 minutes despite some supercharged defense by Ventura.

Brea was leading, 37-35, in the third quarter when Erickson got bowled over the Cougars' Cori Herman.

The Brea fans were screaming, "Watch out!" as Erickson was dribbling down court with Herman charging up behind her. The warning didn't come soon enough. Herman tackled Erickson, a foul was called, and Erickson calmly got up and continued playing as if nothing had happened.

But there were flashes of future greatness when Erickson fed Beckley in the post for two smooth baskets.

It was enough to impress junior forward Jody Anton, who also started as a freshman.

"Sarah might have been a little nervous, but she didn't show it," Anton said. "She rebounded well, she played tough defense, and her shot from the post was excellent . . . (The freshmen) will be great in three years."

Three years? Erickson and Beckley are good right now.

And they have company.

Freshman Colleen Hudson is 6-1. She sat on the bench Saturday but might have played had she not kicked a chair in her science class last week and injured her big toe.

Freshman Susan Rhodabarger, also on the bench, helped the Brea junior varsity to its best record, 25-1.

Sorry Brea opponents, there are plenty more where Rhodabarger came from.

Of course, with expectations growing quickly, the pressure to live up to the potential in the next few years will be tremendous.

Erickson says they don't care.

"I think we'll live up to it," she said. "We'll be awesome."

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