From out of the San Bernardino Mountains, the James sisters have ridden onto the campus of Rancho Alamitos High School with a glint in their eyes and an impossible dream.
The sisters--Shannon and Timerie--are two of the key players who have led the Vaqueros' girls' basketball team (23-2) into the Division III regional final at 9 a.m. today at the L.A. Sports Arena.
There they will meet the defending Division II champion Brea-Olinda Ladycats (30-2), who were moved to Division III this year, for the right to advance to the State finals next weekend. It might not be an impossible dream for the Vaqueros, but it is certainly an improbable one.
Rancho Alamitos won the right to challenge Brea-Olinda with an 86-78 victory over Inglewood Morningside Thursday night.
"They (the Ladycats) are very good," said Shannon, a senior point guard who has averaged 15.9 points and 6.6 assists. "I've watched them for a long time. I've always wanted to play them. We can't allow ourselves to be intimidated and have to play them as if they're some team we've never heard about."
"It's really exciting, playing in the Sports Arena," said Timerie, a junior swingman who averages 10.6 points and 8.6 rebounds. "It's nice that our team is getting a lot of respect and recognition for getting this far in the State playoffs. I think we deserve it a lot."
Shannon and Timerie transferred to Rancho Alamitos last season from Rim of the World High School near Lake Arrowhead. When their mother, Leah, moved to Hawaii, they moved in with their father, Jessie, in Fountain Valley and enrolled at Rancho Alamitos for special vocational classes.
"We learn how to make things out of plastic and fiberglass," said Shannon. "Our teacher has made it a lot of fun. We make some interesting things, and I really enjoy it."
The James sisters have been playing together since they were 6 and 7 years old for their father, who coaches boys' and girls' teams for the Southeast Youth Organization, a program for children of Japanese descent.
"We are each one-quarter Japanese," Shannon explained. "My father is half Japanese."
Long years of experience have enabled the sisters to play together smoothly on the basketball court.
"She's (Shannon) a point guard, and lots of times I know what she's going to do," Timerie said. "We've played together 10,000 times."
"In a way, it's kind of an advantage," Shannon said. "I know where she's going to be and what she's thinking. It helps when you're the point guard and know exactly when and where to pass the ball."
In addition to their play, both girls have given coaching a try in Southeast Youth Organization activities.
"I coached seventh- and eighth-grade girls and we finished undefeated," Shannon said. "Timerie coached 11- and 12-year-old boys. They were pretty obnoxious. My girls were coachable and her boys weren't."
The coaching experience has helped her improve her game, Shannon said.
"It's helped with my basketball on the court while playing," she said. "It's helped me pick up defenses quicker and realize what I'm supposed to be doing and what I'm not supposed to be doing."
Rancho Alamitos Coach Bob Becker lauds the sisters for their contributions to the Vaqueros' season.
"Shannon has been our leader on the court," he said. "Being the point guard, she is in charge of our offense and keeps us under control. She's the most knowledgeable starter we have.
"Timerie is a happy-go-lucky type of kid who has a tremendous inner-competitive spirit. She plays real well under pressure. When the game is on the line, she has hit some of the biggest shots in the history of our program. She's great in the clutch."