The game plan is simple. And it has worked.
Simplicity plays a major role in Costa Mesa's offense, its defense and its basic approach to the game.
That has landed the Mustangs in their first State Championship game. Their opponent in Division III Saturday at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum will be Sacramento St. Francis, an all-girls school. And what the girls at St. Francis will find out is that beating Costa Mesa is no simple task.
The Mustangs have won 27 in a row with the help of Olivia DiCamilli, who has averaged 30.6 points per playoff game and has accounted for 46.3% of the Mustangs' scoring.
"I get geared up for it," she said. "I think I'm a big-game player."
The senior has proved that this season.
Costa Mesa opened the playoffs with a blowout (Santa Fe Springs St. Paul, 73-49) and ended with a nail-biter (Inglewood Morningside, 49-46). In between, they decided games in the first quarter (Rancho Alamitos, 72-55), second quarter (Lompoc, 63-48), third quarter (Culver City, 57-37; San Diego University of San Diego High, 67-45) and fourth (Alemany, 61-59).
All that's left is St. Francis.
The Troubadours will find themselves facing a man-to-man defense, and a full-court press and players who will try to push the ball up the floor.
In other words, a mirror image of itself.
If St. Francis were a taller team, like Morningside, then Costa Mesa would be content to have DiCamilli, Heather Robinson, Neiar Kabua and Jessica Lurmann fire away from outside. All can make the three-point basket with some consistency.
But in all likelihood, they will face DiCamilli's wrath under the basket. In a half-court game, the Mustangs like to work the ball into their star player's hands and let her skills take over. DiCamilli (5 feet 10) didn't earn a scholarship to San Diego State for nothing. She outplayed Morningside's Tina Thompson (6-2), who is bound for USC, in the Southern California final.
But when DiCamilli gets bottled up--as she was in the first quarter of the University game--the scoring onus passes to Robinson (5-9), a junior who can score from anywhere on the court. She possesses the ability to drive to the basket or to pull up and hit the jumper.
Yool Kim (5-7) runs the offense and it's her job to break the press and get the ball into DiCamilli's hands. She picks off the long rebounds--especially those that make it back to the floor--and plays harassing defense.
But Kim can also be more forceful, driving to the basket at the risk of being blocked. It happened several times against Morningside, but that didn't prevent her from doing it once again--with 5 minutes 35 seconds left in the game--and scoring through a forest of defenders to give Costa Mesa the lead for good, 42-40.
Nabua (5-9) will guard St. Francis' best offensive player of similar size. Her primary job is to play denial defense.
April Van Sweden (6-2) started throughout the playoffs, but will spell Lurmann in the championship game. She will be the tallest player when she gets in and could play a major role.
Lurmann (5-9) would be on the bench against a taller team, but that didn't stop her from pulling down 14 rebounds against Morningside. Her size on the front line should take some of the pressure off DiCamilli. Though not counted on as a scorer, she can--and does.
"We do have a tremendous amount of talent in (Robinson) and (DiCamilli)," Coach Lisa McNamee said. "But everyone on our team can shoot. What we have done is worked very hard on defense, ball-handling and passing. At the lower levels at Costa Mesa, we've been fortunate that those players have been taught to shoot. And they know the game."