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SOUTHERN SECTION BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS : Now, Monarchs Must Look to Next Level With Hopes of Getting Even

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There was no free trip to Disneyland for the winners, and no year’s supply of Turtle Wax for the losers.

What was there? A plaque and the understanding there is another basketball tournament to be played.

Ventura Buena’s 50-41 victory over Mater Dei Friday gave the Bulldogs the Southern Section Division I-A girls’ basketball title.

With the victory, they will be one of the top four seeded teams in the eight-team Division I Southern Regional, which is the next step toward a much bigger prize--the State title.

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And that’s where Mater Dei’s focus is now, after being swallowed up in a sea of blue inside the Ventura College gym.

The Monarchs have one of the largest girls’ basketball followings in Orange County, but Friday, the 300 red-clad fans were outnumbered by about 1,400 supporters of the defending I-A champion.

“It’s worth about 10 points to play the game here,” Mater Dei Coach Mary Hauser said. “Our kids have never been (in this situation).

“Next week in Anaheim, it would be a different situation; then we’d have 5,000 Mater Dei fans and a thousand Buena fans.”

That’s what it will be like if the Monarchs can take the next step. They’ll have to win two games next week and, like Friday, will have to travel. But there’s a chance the two teams could meet again. So Hauser wasn’t dwelling on the past.

“Our team all year rebounded from losses really well,” she said. “It seems like the losses propelled us to do well.”

Mater Dei wasn’t overwhelmed, and had it not been for a three-point play at the end of the first half and a three-point basket at the beginning of the second, Friday’s outcome might have been different.

“You make a run,” Hauser said, “then they hit a bucket and they take the umph out of it.”

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Melody Peterson said it is possible for Mater Dei to make a run at the bigger prize.

“I think we can come back even stronger,” she said. “Every team has its day.”

Friday was Buena’s. The Bulldogs weren’t playing for just a championship but for back-to-back titles for the first time. They have been to the final five consecutive seasons.

There were no noticeable tears from Mater Dei players after the loss.

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“I want the kids to get back on track and realize there is a bigger goal, the State championship,” Hauser said.

Said Buena’s Eboni Conley, a sophomore who has been part of two championship teams: “I think we could see them again.”


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