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Warriors Try Proven Formula for Success : College basketball: Shasta Paris and Crystal Fields, who helped El Camino earn a trip to 1992 state tournament, hope to duplicate the feat in 1994.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It all came crashing down for Shasta Paris and Crystal Fields in the spring of 1992.

Paris, a 6-foot center, and Fields, a 6-foot forward, were still reveling in the aftermath of El Camino College’s most successful women’s basketball season to date.

The Warriors had advanced to the final eight of the state community college basketball tournament. Although they lost to Lassen College in a quarterfinal game at Oakland, pats on the back continued for months.

Then Paris and Fields were declared academically ineligible at the end of the spring semester.

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Not only did the players feel as if they had let the team down, but Warrior Coach Kristy Loesener felt betrayed. She was counting on the players to help her use the tournament appearance as a springboard for the 1992-93 season.

“I was extremely disappointed when I knew they wouldn’t be back,” Loesener said. “The worst part is that there were not a lot of recruits out there. . . . so we ended up having holes everywhere.”

The ’92-93 Warriors lacked size and experience. They finished 8-19 and 3-9 in the South Coast Conference after going 18-14 and 6-2 the previous season.

Hoping to right themselves and the help the team return to postseason play, Paris and Fields have returned. The players’ impact on the Warriors (7-3) is evident.

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Fields is averaging 14.2 points and 12.3 rebounds to lead El Camino and Paris is second with 12 points and eight rebounds.

This month, Fields, 21, was named most valuable player of the Palomar tournament, which El Camino won.

Although Loesener questions her work ethic, she says Fields is the team’s best all-around player.

“Her biggest weakness is that she has a tendency to be lazy,” Loesener said. “She doesn’t post up strong if she doesn’t think she’s going to get the ball. Or if the ball gets ahead of her, she doesn’t run to get it. But I’ve seen a lot of improvement in her.”

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Fields was an All-Pioneer League forward at Centennial High as a senior in ’89-90 when she averaged 12 points. She didn’t play during the ’90-91 season because she had a baby. The responsibility of raising a child as a single parent nearly ended her playing career.

But Fields started to attend El Camino games and she soon realized how much she missed playing.

Now her 2-year-old daughter, Shanae, attends all her games along with Field’s mother, who cares for the toddler while Crystal attends classes and practices.

“I was real out of shape when I came back from having my baby. . . . At first I thought I was just going to hang it up and forget it,” she said.

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Paris worked part-time and mostly sat at home feeling sorry for herself during the season away from basketball. It also helped her get control over her temper.

“I knew when she came in I’d be dealing with her bad temper,” Loesener said. “She’s got to shut her mouth. We’ve had confrontations, even this year. But she has matured a lot. I stress respect.”

Paris credits her family with helping her get control of her emotions on the court. On the average, 15-20 relatives attend El Camino games.

“I have five uncles and six aunts and they all have a lot of kids,” said Paris, who attended Narbonne High. “Everybody gets off of work early when I have games. My mother says, ‘Hey you look bad, we all look bad.’ So I’ve mellowed out completely. I’ve come close to fights but I’ve withheld.”

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Fields and Paris mesh well together.

“We jelled from the start,” Paris said. “We could interchange at any time. It’s like having two of the same players on one team.”

Said Loesener: “They know each other’s moves and they really compliment each other. You can’t teach that instinctive part of the game.”

Fields and Paris would like to continue to play together at a four-year school, but Paris has only one season of eligibility remaining at a Division I school.

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“Wouldn’t it be great, though, if we could play together next year?” Paris said. “We’d tear it up.”


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