The way the Buena High girls’ basketball team figured it, if they wanted to be No. 1, they had to beat No. 1.
So they did, in a rousing 59-56 upset of Brea Olinda, the top-ranked team in the state, in a nonleague matchup of perennial powerhouses before a standing-room only crowd of 1,600 on Saturday night at Buena.
“This is exciting. It ranks right up there,” said Buena forward Renae Hofmann, who had eight of her 12 points in the fourth quarter. “I feel pretty great right now.”
Buena (17-2) knocked off a team that won four consecutive state titles from 1991-94 and has won Southern Section championships in each of the past eight seasons, including the Division II-A title last season.
The Ladycats (18-3) entered the game ranked 19th in the nation by USA Today.
Buena, the defending Southern Section Division I-A champion, entered the game ranked 10th in the state.
“I thought we played well enough to win,” Brea Olinda Coach Jeff Sink said. “But that was a big game and they played well too.”
The Bulldogs rallied after trailing at halftime, 33-26.
The comeback began when they made their first four shots in the third quarter and took a 37-35 lead with the help of a pair of three-point shots by Ashley Jackson, her only points of the game.
Buena tightened its man-to-man defense to force six third-quarter turnovers.
Leading, 39-37, going into the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs began going inside to center Nicole Greathouse, who scored four of their first 11 points in the quarter and had five rebounds that led to several baskets by Hofmann and guard Kelly Murray.
Greathouse finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Murray had 11 points, five in the fourth quarter.
Buena took its biggest lead at 58-48 after consecutive driving layups by Murray and Stephanie Kinnear (14 points, eight rebounds) and two free throws each by Murray and Hofmann.
The Wilcats made it closer at the end by outscoring the Bulldogs, 8-1, in the last 23 seconds as Jennifer Saari made a pair of three-pointers.
Saari led Brea Olinda with 15 points and Stephanie Wettlin added 12.
“This is what girls’ basketball is all about,” Buena Coach Joe Vaughan said.
“You get to watch a game like this between two outstanding teams in a packed house, and it’s really exciting.”
The Bulldogs actually led, 15-14, after scoring the last eight points of the first quarter after Brea Olinda had made six of its first nine shots to take an early 14-7 lead.