A year ago, a junior-laden Woodbridge team was driven by its loss the previous year in the state title game to return--and win--the Division II state championship.
This year, Brea Olinda had four juniors and high hopes of dethroning the defending state champion.
It didn't happen.
Woodbridge, ranked No. 1 in the state and sixth in the nation, got its victory, 53-45, as everyone expected in Saturday's Southern California Regional final at the Pond. And Brea got the impetus to return next year a little better.
" 'First Quarter Woodbridge,' is a slogan we'll wear around our necks for the next year," Brea Coach Jeff Sink said.
Marissa Bradley, who scored 20 points for the Ladycats, said the first quarter is all that she would remember, too.
The first quarter was memorable because it decided the winner.
Brea (29-4) went nearly the first seven minutes without a field goal and fell behind, 16-2.
But as bad as Brea was early, Woodbridge's Melanie Pearson was brilliant.
Pearson, a UCLA-bound senior, scored 10 points in the first quarter, several on offensive rebounds, and had 17 at halftime. She finished with a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds.
Pearson had 21 by the time Woodbridge stretched its 33-19 halftime lead to 17, 41-24, with 5 minutes 46 seconds left in the third quarter.
"Pearson was very motivated, and whenever she plays that way--aggressive, crashing the boards and driving to the hoop--she's one of the best players in the state," Sink said.
"She plays one of two ways. She's been passive, where she tries to get everyone else involved, and she's been the go-to person. I hoped she would be the former."
Pearson was the latter. And she got enough help from juniors Carly Moss (six points, career-high 14 rebounds) and Erin Stovall (16 points) to hold off Brea's second-half rally. The Ladycats eventually cut the deficit to six, 51-45, with 2:07 left.
First-year Woodbridge Coach Pat Quinn praised the contribution of Moss and Cathy Joens (nine rebounds): "If we rebound," he said, "we win."
Woodbridge had a 47-33 rebounding advantage.
The Warriors (31-2) will defend their title at 6:15 p.m. Friday at Sacramento's Arco Arena.
They will face Sacramento El Camino, a 67-55 winner over Fair Oaks Del Campo.
Brea, in the regional final for the eighth consecutive year, opened the game in disaster mode. The Ladycats went 6:54 without a field goal before Stephanie Wettlin's four-footer on the baseline.
Brea had open shots under the basket, but couldn't finish. The team that shot 57.6% over the last six quarters made two of 10 in the first quarter.
The Ladycats were three for nine from the free-throw line. They were 21 for 26 in the two games earlier this week.
"All of a sudden, we blinked and we were down," Sink said. "It was like watching 'The Twilight Zone.' We dug a Grand Canyon-sized hole."
To get out of it, the Ladycats used a box-and-one on Pearson in the second half and forced Woodbridge to try to hold onto the game from the perimeter.
Woodbridge was six for 30 from the field in the second half.
Brea rallied by shooting 42% in the half until Wettlin (10 points, eight rebounds) scored inside to make it 51-45 with 2:07 left. The Ladycats missed their final four shots.