Moore Is The Most


Loree Moore speaks in much the same way she regularly takes over high school basketball games.


The senior guard for Harbor City Narbonne scores, passes and rebounds with grace--and without exclamation.

"I'm pretty much about fundamentals," Moore said. "I like to win and I like to play defense. I don't worry about whether anyone notices me on the court."

It's hard to miss the 5-foot-10 Moore, who has averaged 15 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and five steals a game in three-plus seasons.

Tennessee, along with every other college powerhouse, certainly noticed.

After coming up empty in her pursuit of Southland standouts Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie and Ebony Hoffman through the years, Lady Vol Coach Pat Summitt has landed Moore and Buena guard Courtney Young for next season.

Moore and Young, acquaintances after years of playing against each other in youth competition, will square off Saturday night when Buena (22-0), ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today, plays host to third-ranked Narbonne (17-2), which won the mythical national title last season.

The nonleague game has been sold out for more than a month and is regarded as a possible preview to the Division I Southern California regional final of the state tournament. Narbonne, the defending state champion, is expected to cruise to the City Section championship. Buena is favored to win the Southern Section Division I-A title.

"It's going to be a great night for girls' basketball in Southern California," Narbonne Coach James Anderson said. "These kinds of matchups happen all the time for the boys, but it's rare for the girls. This isn't just a game. It's an event."

Moore, a Lakewood resident and younger half sister of major league first baseman Brian Hunter, has enjoyed an eventful career at Narbonne, which she attends on an inter-district transfer permit.

As a freshman, Moore helped the Lady Gauchos win their first city and state Division I titles. Both championships were forfeited, however, because of residence violations involving other Narbonne players.

Narbonne was ineligible to compete in the playoffs in 1998-99.

"That was a tough [sophomore] year," Moore said. "We pushed ourselves through it, worked on different things and kept hitting the books in school. By the time last season began, we were ready and focused."

Narbonne, led by Hoffman and Moore, began the 1999-2000 season ranked No. 1 in the nation in several polls and defeated Berkeley in the state championship game to finish 36-0.

Moore keyed the victory with 21 points and seven steals.

"She attacked the basket--we didn't seem to have an answer for her," Berkeley Coach Gene Nakamura said. "When we got close, she took over."

Moore did the same thing last summer at tryouts for the U.S. junior national team in Colorado Springs, Colo., despite being one of the youngest players there. Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma said it did not take Moore long to make an impression.

"The first day of the trials, her defensive intensity and instincts really stood out," Auriemma said. "The people on the [selection] committee were really impressed that she would come out and almost be a dominant player from the start."

Moore made the team and was the top reserve for a U.S. squad that won a world championship qualifying tournament in Argentina under Auriemma.

"I just ran the point and concentrated on defense," said Moore, who averaged six points. "It showed me what I have to look forward to, playing against college players."

Moore chose Tennessee over Notre Dame and other programs because of the Lady Vols' tradition as six-time national champions, Summitt, and academics.

"When I went for my visit and saw they had my major--management information systems--that closed the book," Moore said.

Moore hopes the final chapter of her high school career includes another state title. The road to that goal begins in earnest Saturday against Buena.

"Their team and crowd is going to be pumped up to beat us," Moore said. "We just have to play our game and not worry about everything that is going on around us."

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