Though the roster changes with each season, one thing remains the same for Alemany High--its spot in a Southern Section girls' basketball final.
The top-seeded Indians advanced to the Division III-AA championship game with a 69-58 victory over Pomona on Saturday night at Walnut High. It will be Alemany's sixth title-game appearance in seven years.
"We aren't as big as we've been in the past," Alemany Coach Melissa Hearlihy said. "So we live and die with good defense and quick transition on offense. We got both tonight."
Alemany, ranked fourth in The Times' regional poll, started slowly for the second game in succession, but scored 14 consecutive points in a 3 1/2-minute span of the second quarter to take a 39-24 lead.
"That killed us," first-year Pomona Coach Brian Crichlow said of the Indians' run. "After that, it was an even game, except that we had to play catch-up."
Sophomore Karina Siam had 21 points for the Indians (23-6) and senior guard Kelli Kobayashi added 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
"She's the finest distributor of the ball I've ever had," Hearlihy said of Kobayashi. "She's our most experienced player, and she's the reason our young players have matured so quickly."
All-Southern Section guard Kate Beckler, who was averaging 29 points in the playoffs, finished with 17 points, five steals and six rebounds for Alemany.
Tyesha Floyd scored 19 points for the fourth-seeded Red Devils (19-9), including five three-point baskets. Alexis Hill added 17 points and Amber Thomas had 16 for Pomona, which committed 22 turnovers.
"Trying to figure them out is like solving a puzzle," Crichlow said of Alemany. "They have so many weapons that it's hard to get all your pieces to fit right."
Pomona trailed, 42-31, at halftime, but got within six points three times in the fourth quarter, the last when Floyd made her fifth three-point basket with 3:47 left.
Alemany responded with layups by Alma Sandoval and Beckler, closing out the game with a 7-2 run.
Hearlihy, who needs five victories to reach the 300 mark, said that achievement is the furthest thing from her mind.
"My goal is to win another Southern Section title," said Hearlihy, who has coached at Alemany for 13 years.
Alemany won Southern Section titles in 1992 and 1994.
Siam was not the only underclassman to come through for Alemany. Sandoval, also a sophomore, finished with seven points and a season-high nine rebounds for the Indians.
She converted the two big buckets down the stretch.
"Sandoval really stepped up for us," Hearlihy said. "She's not a starter, but she played as well as she has all season."
Alemany made four of its first six shots and led, 23-19, after one quarter.
The Indians took a 54-46 lead with seconds left in the third quarter when Kobayashi threw a no-look, half-court pass to Beckler for a layup.