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CSLA Off to Its Best Start in Years : Women’s basketball: Hustle and strong play from reserves help the Eagles to a 9-3 record.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Last week, you couldn’t have blamed Stacie Washington if her attention was divided between her opponents on the basketball court and her two biggest fans in the stands.

At halftime, Washington’s 4-year-old twins ran onto the court and hugged their mother--a 6-foot-3 center for the Cal State Los Angeles women’s basketball team. She embraced her son and daughter before heading to the locker room.

When the game resumed, Washington regained her focus and led the Eagles to a 72-63 nonconference win over Sonoma State Wednesday. Washington scored 13 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots.

“She’s great,” CSLA Coach Marcia Murota said. “Our only problem is keeping her out of foul trouble.”

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Wednesday night, Washington had four fouls in 24 minutes of play.

In Murota’s fourth season as coach, the Eagles are off to a 9-3 overall record, their best start since the 1986-87 season. And they are doing it without the benefit of an experienced point guard.

“Not having a true point guard may hurt us,” said CSLA’s Maritza Cruz.

But what the Eagles lack at point guard they compensate for with a talented group of reserves led by Cruz. The former Huntington Park High standout had 10 points and six rebounds. Cruz, a part-time starting forward, believes she has earned a permanent starting role.

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“I had it in my head that I was starting tonight,” Cruz said. “It took me a few minutes to get over that, but it feels good to know the team needs me.”

Cruz, a 5-9 junior, spent a good portion of the night careening off the blue jerseys of Sonoma State. She attributes her rough style to growing up with three brothers.

“When they pushed me, I pushed back harder,” said Cruz, who made four of eight free throw attempts.

The fact that only one referee showed up may have added to the Eagles’ aggressiveness. They forced 22 turnovers while roughing up the Cossacks.

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Blaine finished with 21 points.

After the game, Washington carried her twins piggyback style to the locker room.

A good night’s work for a hard-working mother.


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