When it comes to the top girls' basketball teams in the City Section over the last three years, it's hard to find a more dominant school than Crenshaw High.
The two-time defending City 4-A Division champions have won 70 of their past 79 games, losing only twice to section opponents during that period.
This season, Crenshaw (23-0) has gained statewide attention as the only remaining undefeated team in California.
During their unbeaten run, the Cougars faced some of the top teams in San Diego in winning the San Diego Lincoln and Las Vegas Cheyenne tournament titles, and endured the rugged Southern Pacific Conference, which provided three of last year's four 4-A semifinalists.
"Talent-wise I thought there was a lot of potential but the team has achieved more than I thought," Crenshaw High Coach Greg Cobbs said. "It would be a disappointment if we didn't win the City title but our goals are a little higher. We want to bring back a State title."
If the Cougars are successful, they would become the first City team since Locke in 1981 to win a State championship.
Crenshaw will take the first step toward that goal in the first round of the 4-A playoffs Friday. Crenshaw was expected to be named the top seed at a pairings meeting Saturday.
Southern Pacific Conference runner-up Washington, Southeastern Conference champion Roosevelt, Taft and North Hollywood are the best bets to thwart Crenshaw's bid to become the third school to win three consecutive City girls' titles.
Washington, the only City team to beat Crenshaw in the last three seasons, defeated Crenshaw twice last season.
Crenshaw, though, has beaten the Generals in three meetings this year.
On Wednesday, Crenshaw defeated Washington, 62-50, to clinch the Southern Pacific Conference title. The Cougars also beat the Generals, 62-53, last month and 56-51 in the final of the Washington tournament in December.
"They play smart and under control," Washington Coach Julie Rousseau said about Crenshaw.
Depth has also been a factor in Crenshaw's success. Sophomore Naila Moseley (6-0) and senior Kristi Lattin are among four returning starters.
Moseley leads the team averaging 24.3 points and 11 rebounds. Lattin, an All-City forward who has moved to point guard this season, averages 22.1 points and seven rebounds. Guards junior Devon King (5-5) and senior Sommer Tillett (5-3) are also back.
Crenshaw has also been bolstered by the addition of sophomore Danielle Rainey, who is averaging 12 points.
Here is a look at other Central City teams to watch:
* Fremont, Southeastern: The Pathfinders have been slowed by injuries but the trio of senior guard Aisha Savage (5-9), junior forward Florastine Hillis (5-9) and sophomore Shaterry Danley (5-11) are among the City's best when healthy.
* Marshall, Northern: The Barristers (20-4) went undefeated in conference at 14-0 and enter the playoffs with a 17-game win streak. How far Marshall advances will be contingent on the back-court tandem of seniors Korey Kobata (5-5) and Jamie Kogan (5-6).
* Roosevelt, Southeastern: The Roughriders (18-1), who are 39-3 the past two seasons, are seeking their second consecutive appearance in the 4-A final.
Zenobia Tyson Hunt, a 6-3 senior center, is one of the City's premier post players. Guards Edna Alvarez (5-7) and Jennifer Brambila (5-6) and forward Hilda Perales (5-7), all seniors return. Dawn Pellerin (5-9), a junior transfer from Huntington Park, has provided additional scoring and rebounding strength.
* Manual Arts, Coastal: The Toilers are one of the most improved teams under first-year Coach Andrea Anthony. Manual Arts has experience with senior guard Martha Angol (5-7). The Toilers, however, may be the team of the future with sophomores Jovanae St. Cyr (5-10), Shawnta Jones (5-9) and Stephanie Taylor (5-9).
* Washington, Southern Pacific: The Generals appear to have all the ingredients to make a run at their fifth City title in seven seasons.
Juniors point guard Tina Greer (5-2), forward Kanisha Best (5-9), Shawnee Pickney (5-11) and senior center Jackie Lauderdale (6-0) helped Washington (14-6) reach the semifinals last season. Washington has also added a three-point shooting threat in Trysta Wilson (5-7), a junior guard from Gardena High, and post play from junior Lareishia Findley (6-0) and sophomore Laneishe Williams (6-0).