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GIRLS’ BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW : North Hollywood Scrappers Set Their Sights on Crenshaw

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Before Coach Rich Allen ushers his North Hollywood High girls’ basketball team into the heart of Los Angeles, he may take the Huskies on an inspirational detour to the heart of Indiana--courtesy of Hollywood.

“I think I’m going to show them ‘Hoosiers’ tonight,” Allen said, referring to the movie celebrating a small Indiana high school’s state championship season. “We feel like we’re just little scrappers fighting hard. This has been a gutty team.”

The second-seeded Huskies (21-6) have clawed and scratched their way to the City Section 4-A Division championship at 4:30 p.m. today at the Sports Arena, where they will face top-seeded Crenshaw.

In Southern Section finals tonight at 7:30 involving area teams, Bell-Jeff faces Cerritos Valley Christian in the IV-A championship at Biola College and Lancaster Bethel Christian plays Lone Pine for the Division IV-A title at Antelope Valley College.

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North Hollywood defeated Dorsey, 62-57, in a semifinal in large part because of 22 points and 10 rebounds by Darvena Merritt.

“It’s hard to believe Crenshaw is going to be a heck of a lot better than Dorsey,” Allen said.

Allen should know. Last year, the Huskies lost to Crenshaw in a second-round playoff game after squandering a 14-point first-quarter lead.

Senior guard Cathleen Grice is Crenshaw’s standout player. Grice averages 19.3 points, eight rebounds and 7.2 assists a game.

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North Hollywood’s leaders are Merritt, a junior forward, and sophomore guard Anna Celaya, the co-most valuable players of the Mid-Valley League. Merritt averages 15.0 points and Celaya averages 14.5.

Allen said senior forward Rachel Fogelhut, who had 11 points and nine assists against Dorsey, has played particularly well of late, and Giovanna Alaimo and Tamika McKinon also will contribute.

What makes North Hollywood’s run to the championship game surprising is that three players have been lost this season. Seniors Nikki Hamilton and Tricia Crosby have been sidelined because of knee injuries, and Liz LaFevers moved to Westlake Village.

“But the girls haven’t moaned or complained or used that as an excuse, they’ve just played their little hearts out,” Allen said. “When you get to this level the kids are just on cloud nine. We’re just going to enjoy ourselves. But we’d like to win.”

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So would the Bell-Jeff girls’ team. The outcome of its game against Cerritos Valley Christian could depend on how well senior Lori Talley plays for Bell-Jeff (27-2), Coach Jim Crouch said.

Talley, a 6-foot-1 point guard, averages about 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, Crouch said, and is being recruited by USC, UNLV, Oregon, Riverside and Pomona.

“Lori Talley is going to have to penetrate and take control of the game, which she’s capable of doing,” Couch said.

Bell-Jeff junior Cathy Flores averages 18 points and 13 rebounds. Three-point specialist Christina Ticsay averages 12 points.

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Cerritos Valley Christian (25-2) is the defending IV-A champion.


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