Division I-AA Girls’ Basketball Final
Where--The Pyramid, 8:15 tonight
Peninsula (25-4)--This is the Panthers’ sixth title game in eight seasons. The defending champions, they also won in 1992 (and went on to win a state title) and ’96. Three starters and eight players are back from last year’s team. Returning are senior center Natalie Kelly (15.8 points, 9.1 rebounds) and two senior guards, Lara Hanson (9.2 points, 5.2 rebounds) and Erica Bushu (6.2 points). Peninsula lacks El Toro’s offensive firepower and can’t afford to get in a shootout, but the Panther defense is so good, they are able to avoid such contests. Opponents averaged 38.9 points in the regular season, 34.2 in the playoffs. The Panthers’ man-to-man defense forced 19.7 turnovers per game largely without a press, and must slow the Mendiola sisters without overcommitting.
El Toro (23-4)--The Chargers, in the finals for the first time, prefer a faster pace so they can do what they do best, which is score. Peninsula averages only 55.3 points, and El Toro scored fewer than 55 only once this season--in a 54-39 victory over the top-seeded team in Division I-A, Riverside North. Fifteen times El Toro has scored more than 60. But the key for the Chargers has been the development of a complementary scorer to Giuliana Mendiola (24.5 points, 7.5 assists) and her sister, Gioconda (19 points, 7.7 assists). At least one teammate scored at least 10 points in each playoff game except the 51-47 semifinal victory over Lynwood. Freshman Amy Shaw, the first guard off the bench, is out with a knee injury; an MRI on Monday will determine whether she’s available for the regional playoffs.
Key to the game--Tempo will be critical as Peninsula tries to slow the game and El Toro tries to speed it up. No matter the pace, El Toro’s supporting cast can’t get cold feet and expect the Mendiolas to take every shot.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
P Name Ht. Avg. F Kim York 5-10 5.8 C Natalie Kelly 6-2 15.8 G Lara Hanson 5-10 9.2 G Erica Bushu 5-9 6.2 G Lauryn Morita 5-4 6.6
Coach: Wendell Yoshida
P Name Ht. Avg. F Amy Rikimaru 5-8 7.5 F Amy Everett 5-11 6.1 C Ingrid Look 5-11 3.4 G Giuliana Mendiola 5-10 24.5 G Gioconda Mendiola 5-8 19.0
Coach: Vincent Avitabile