Two on Top : Powers Brea Olinda and Ventura Buena Look Like the Best Bets to Reign Over Southland

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Brea Olinda and Ventura Buena have combined to win seven Southern Section girls' basketball titles in the last four years and the two powers figure to lead the pack again this season.

But who's No. 1?

The teams play in different divisions--Buena in Division I and Brea in Division II--so the two won't clash with any section or state titles on the line. But they will meet Feb. 1 at Buena High.

The rest of the top teams in the area begin the season chasing these perennial powers.

A look at the top teams with section, division and last season's record:

1. BREA OLINDA

Southern Section, Division II, 29-4 in 1995-96--The Ladycats return four starters from a team that won the Division II-A title and lost to state champion Woodbridge, 53-45, in the Southern California Regional final. Jennifer Saari (13 points, six assists), Marissa Bradley (14 points, four assists), Stephanie Wettlin (10 points, six rebounds) and Rochelle Anthony (12 points, eight rebounds) will lead a charge for a ninth consecutive section title and sixth state championship in nine seasons.

2. VENTURA BUENA

Southern Section, Division I, 30-2--The Bulldogs could just as easily be ranked No. 1 with top returner Nicole Greathouse, a 6-foot-2 senior center who has signed with UC Santa Barbara. Buena has appeared in seven consecutive section finals and a key may be the development of its untested back court of junior Renae Hofmann and sophomore Kelly Murray.

3. MORENO VALLEY

Southern Section, Division I, 22-6--Moreno Valley moves to Division I after losing to Riverside North in the Division II-AA semifinals last season, 62-42. The Vikings are the top-rated team in the Riverside area, especially after Tysell Bozeman transferred in from rival Valley View. Julie Alvarado also returns for Moreno Valley.

4. WASHINGTON

City Section, Division 4-A, 22-5--Laneisha Williams and Shawnee Pickney lead the defending Division 4-A champions who will contend again this season. The Generals will have to fight their way through a tough league that includes Crenshaw, Banning and Narbonne.

5. SAN BERNARDINO

Southern Section, Division II, 23-6--The Cardinals are looking for their first section title since 1981 and may have a championship-caliber team. But in Division II-A, San Bernardino still has to break Brea's title-winning streak. LaCresha Flannigan, who has signed with Kansas, leads a talented unit that has shown promise this season.

6. WOODBRIDGE

Southern Section, Division II, 32-2--Woodbridge has won two consecutive state titles and three consecutive section titles, but it may be hard pressed to do either this season. Krissy Dupperon and sophomore Cathy Joens are the top returning players, but two-time Division II player of the year Melanie Pearson has moved on to UCLA.

7. PALMDALE

Southern Section, Division I, 29-4--Four starters return from a squad that came within three points of winning the school's first section title. Palmdale lost in the Division I-AA final to Palos Verdes Peninsula, 36-34, last season. Edniesha Curry, who has signed with Cal State Northridge, and Monique Nolan are the Falcons' top players.

8. CRENSHAW

City Section, Division 4-A, 16-7--Naila Mosely and Kisha Shepard are two of the top players on a Cougar team that could be the most talented in the City Section. Crenshaw still has to unseat Washington for league supremacy.

9. QUARTZ HILL

Southern Section, Division I, 17-8--Sanethia Thomas, who has signed with Texas El Paso, returns after averaging 14 points last season. Kenya Corley and Tiffany Cooke, two of Antelope Valley's best players last season, transferred to Golden League rival Quartz Hill.

10. LAGUNA HILLS

Southern Section, Division II, 24-3--Senior center Tayyiba Haneef, 6-6, and senior guard Tamara Inoue are two of four starters returning for the Hawks. Expectations are high after Laguna Hills won its first league title and advanced to the Division II-A semifinals last season.

11. CRESCENTA VALLEY

Southern Section, Division I, 28-2--The Falcons feature one of the Southland's best players, 5-10 junior Michelle Greco. Named Cal-Hi Sports' state freshman and sophomore of the year, she averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists last season. Junior Tara Gregory and 6-3 sophomore Kelly Paige also return.

12. SANTA ANA MATER DEI

Southern Section, Division I, 30-2--The defending State Division I champions have some big holes to fill, including the loss of section player of the year, Melody Peterson, now at Stanford. Tina Garcia, who has signed with Nevada Las Vegas, could fill part of the void after transferring from Seattle Christian. She averaged 22 points last season.

13. CHINO

Southern Section, Division I, 23-4--Jean Clark, one of the top front-court players in the Southland, is the focal point for all Cowboy opponents. Chino lost to Buena, 42-41, in last season's Division I-A quarterfinals.

14. HARBOR CITY NARBONNE

City Section, Division 4-A, 14-9--Kawai Mathews is one of the top forwards in the state, but the Gauchos will have to fight their way past Crenshaw and Washington. Banning, which defeated Crenshaw, Washington and Narbonne last season, is in the same league and could challenge Narbonne.

15. PERRIS

Southern Section, Division III, 24-3--The Panthers lost one of the state's top players to graduation, Maylana Martin, now at UCLA. But Leaf Newman, who has committed to Arizona State, will help Perris challenge Moreno Valley in the Sunbelt League.

16. HUNTINGTON BEACH OCEAN VIEW

Southern Section, Division II, 23-9--The Seahawks are young but advanced to the Division II-A final last season and return most of their key players. Sophomore guard Jennifer Tuiolosega (15 points, four assists) and 6-1 junior center Anna Lembke (12 points, eight rebounds) are two of the best in Orange County.

17. RIVERSIDE J.W. NORTH

Southern Section, Division I, 23-7--The Huskies move up to Division I-A this season and will have to battle Buena. Although Ayesha Rembert now plays at Marquette, junior guard Julia Gray, who averaged 14 points last season, returns.

18. TORRANCE BISHOP MONTGOMERY

Southern Section, Division III, 18-17--The defending State Division III and section Division III-AA champions have two marquee players back--6-0 forward Tashara Carter, who has signed with USC, and Danielle Graham. A repeat performance is possible, although the Knights will be tested in league by Bishop Amat.

19. GRANADA HILLS KENNEDY

City Section, Division 4-A, 12-12--Coyles Scarborough and Tamaya Morris return, but the biggest reason the Cougars could contend for their first City Section title since 1987 is the arrival of three transfers from Taft. Vanessa Dunn, Monia Calhoun and Rosie Ortiz transferred to Kennedy after helping Taft finish 20-2 last season.

20. BURBANK BELL-JEFF

Southern Section, Division IV, 22-6--Bell-Jeff could compete in the higher divisions like some other small schools, including five-time defending Division IV-A section champion Cerritos Valley Christian. Bell-Jeff returns its top seven players, including 6-2 senior Jaclyn Johnson.

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