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Defense Takes Troy to Semifinals

Just how big was the defensive performance by Katie Hardeman and her Troy teammates in the 61-54 victory over Chino Don Lugo on Saturday?

“If we can keep her to 25-27 points, we’ll be doing pretty well,” Coach Kevin Kiernan said before the game, referring to Don Lugo’s Diana Taurasi, one of three players in section history to score 3,000 points. “Anything below 30.”

Troy held Taurasi to 23 points, and, more importantly, to four in the fourth quarter, which began with the Warriors holding a 39-37 lead and everyone expecting the Connecticut-bound Taurasi to take over.

The fourth-quarter defense was provided by Hardeman, who got two first-quarter fouls, but played the rest of the way without committing another foul.

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Hardeman said the Warriors knew they were in for a difficult night in front of the standing-room-only crowd.

“Coach told us we had to win by 10 points to win by two,” Hardeman said.

They had plenty to spare.

“We’re at a different level right now,” Kiernan said. “We’re very focused. They’ve bought into the idea of playing hard all the time and being mentally tough. [Saturday] was the fruition of all that.”

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Joe Marcos, athletic director at Don Lugo, said Saturday’s crowd was the largest he has seen in 21 years at the school. Though gym capacity is listed at 1,500, Marcos estimated attendance of 2,000.

“We just couldn’t get any more people in the gym,” Marcos said. “I’ve never seen it packed like that for a ballgame.”

BASKETBALL SITES

Four semifinal games tonight feature county teams.

In Division I-A, second-seeded Troy will play host to Edison at Sunny Hills High in a rematch of Troy’s 57-52 victory in the Orange County Championship.

In the other semifinal, fourth-seeded San Clemente plays top-seeded Riverside North at Riverside Poly in a rematch of last season’s quarterfinal, in which San Clemente upset North, then-seeded No. 1, 54-53.

El Toro defeated Lynwood in last year’s Division I-AA semifinal, 51-47, and the teams meet again tonight at Laguna Hills High. El Toro is the No. 3-seeded team; Lynwood is No. 2.

To get around some Division II-AA conflicts with other programs, the Southern Section announced that No. 3 Redondo Beach Redondo will play No. 2 Foothill at Villa Park High, and changed the Redondo boys’ game to Wednesday at Loyola Marymount against Compton Dominguez.

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Brea Olinda, the No. 1 seed in Division II-AA, will play Wednesday at Valencia High against No. 4 Norco.

The finals are Friday and Saturday at the Pyramid in Long Beach. Unseeded Pacifica meets Laguna Hills in Division II-A, and fourth-seeded Rosary plays second-seeded Torrance Bishop Montgomery in Division III-AA. Game times will be announced later.

UNLIKELY HEROES

Laguna Hills is an unlikely figure in the Division II-A section final. The Hawks beat second-seeded La Puente Bishop Amat in a quarterfinal, 58-48, and third-seeded Newbury Park on Saturday, 54-43.

The Hawks trailed by seven with 5 1/2 minutes to play, both centers had fouled out, starting forward Christianne Bengard was sidelined with an injured knee, Shannon Owens had four fouls and two players who were called up from the junior varsity--sophomores Brynn Mader and Christina Leets--were in the lineup.

And Laguna Hills won by 11.

“It’s the most amazing comeback I’ve been a part of,” said Coach Jim Martin, who watched Mader and Leets hold their own against a team that had won 19 in a row. “It was unbelievable.”

Leets, in the game because of attrition, had four points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter.

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“This is really amazing,” Leets said. “I just can’t even believe this.”

Staff writer Lauren Peterson contributed to this report.

If you have an item or idea for the prep basketball report, you can fax us at (714)966-5663 or e-mail us at martin.henderson@latimes.com


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