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Buena Weathers Stormy Crowd

Cloistered in mini-vans, the Buena High girls’ basketball team was prepared to fight the elements on the way to a game Wednesday against Righetti in Santa Maria, an area hit hard by rainstorms earlier this week.

But the real battle came when the Bulldogs entered the Righetti gym.

A loud crowd and a quiet offense made the going tough for Buena, which has won three Southern Section titles in the past four seasons.

The Bulldogs escaped with a 52-49 overtime victory and tonight will host Royal in a Division I-A quarterfinal game.

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“You could have 50 people in that gym [at Righetti] and it would seem like there were 10,000 with the acoustics,” said Joe Vaughan, Buena’s coach. “You can’t simulate that in practice.”

Nor could the Bulldogs have predicted that guard Renae Hofmann would nail five three-point baskets, three of them in the second half, and finish with 23 points.

Freshman center Kelly Greathouse finished with 21 rebounds.

Next up for Buena (25-2), ranked No. 1 in the region by The Times, is Royal, whom Vaughan said the Bulldogs haven’t played since the early 1980s.

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Once again, the Bulldogs are fighting something, this time head colds that have struck starting guard Kelly Murray and a couple of the backups.

“I’m trying to get the kids to drink a lot of fluids and take their chicken noodle soup,” Vaughan said.

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Buena (25-2) has the region’s proudest girls’ basketball tradition and is seeking its third consecutive Division I-A title and Royal (25-3) advanced beyond the first round for the first time in 16 seasons.

But Mike Kohl, Royal’s coach, is confident that his players won’t be intimidated tonight when they take the court at Buena in a quarterfinal.

“Going into a place like that, facing the history, experience and talent, you better be confident,” Kohl said. “We have to go in there thinking, ‘We’re Royal. We’re 25-3.’ ”

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Two of the Southern Section’s most prolific scorers will face off tonight when top-seeded Crescenta Valley (24-2) travels to El Toro (26-2) for a Division I-AA quarterfinal.

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El Toro guard Giuliana Mendiola is the Orange County scoring leader with a 22-point average and Crescenta Valley All-American Michelle Greco is averaging more than 30 points in the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Mendiola scored 29 points in the Chargers’ 78-68 double-overtime victory over fourth-seeded Capistrano Valley on Wednesday.

UCLA-bound Greco, who averaged 34 points in seven playoff games last season, scored 34 points in a first-round victory over Santa Monica and 31 in a 78-49 rout of Bell Gardens in the second round on Wednesday.

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Many seeded teams already have been eliminated from the playoffs, including Moorpark in Division II-A, and Louisville and Paraclete in Division IV-AA. Buena, seeded second in Division I-A, needed overtime to escape with a second-round victory over Righetti.

Alemany (22-6), seeded No. 1 in Division III-AA, also was surprised by an opponent, but the Indians overcame an early nine-point deficit to defeat Barstow, 81-65, Wednesday in a quarterfinal.

. “I’m glad they gave us a scare. . . . We needed to be pushed,” said Kate Beckler, an Alemany guard.

Alemany faces Pomona tonight in a semifinal at Walnut High.

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Brian Taylor (6 feet 4), Harvard-Westlake’s coach, practiced against his players this week to prepare them for a Division III-A semifinal tonight against Nordhoff and 6-5 junior center Christen Roper.

Taylor, a former NBA guard, believes post players Omelogo Udeze, Rolake Bamgbose and Carissa Abbott will stand up to the challenge.

“They sure beat me up,” said Taylor, whose Wolverines (24-5) had never been beyond the second round. “I was very impressed. But you have to remember, I’m almost 47. I went home and went straight to bed.”

Correspondents Mike Bresnahan and Dave Desmond contributed to this notebook.


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