There are several ways to bill tonight's big girls' basketball game between the Edison Chargers and Troy Warriors: No. 1 vs. No. 2. The Big Rematch. Take your pick.
But there's one simple statement that stands out above all: it's for the CIF Southern Section Division 1A championship.
The top-ranked Chargers and second-ranked Warriors collide at 8:15 p.m. at Anaheim Arena.
Sunset League champion Edison is 28-3 and basically has waltzed its way to the division final. The Chargers had a first-round bye and then preceded to roll through No. 16 Arcadia (84-46), Corona (77-46) and Saturday bumped off No. 4 Rancho Cucamonga, 74-63, to move onto a division championship game for the second time in four years.
"We really have been taking our games one at a time and not looking ahead," said Bonnie Samuelson, a senior who will play next year at Stanford. "Now we can look ahead to this one game. We're excited and energized to be playing in the final. It's been an unbelievable senior year. It's been awesome."
Troy brings a 27-3 mark into tonight's showdown and maneuvered its way from its Fullerton campus for a short trip to Anaheim by virtue of impressive postseason wins over No. 15 Marlborough (63-19), No. 7 Chino Hills (42-34) and No. 3 Woodbridge (62-32).
It was apparent that Edison and Troy have been on a collision course from the start of postseason play.
"We've both been playing very well in the playoffs," said Roger Anderson, who is in his fourth year as head coach at Troy. "We're just glad to have another shot to play against Edison. The girls are excited."
Troy has come close to title glory the past three years, having reached the semifinals in each of those three seasons before being eliminated. The program, which has won 150 straight Freeway League games and 19 consecutive league championships, has five Southern Section titles to its credit, the last of which was captured in 2005-06.
The Warriors are a young squad with forward Madalene Barrett — who Anderson called the face of the program — the only senior in the starting lineup. Junior point guard Shelby Dougherty and three sophomores — Alecia Dimas, Gabby Hanson and Briana Roberson— also start.
Troy has just two seniors on its roster.
"The beautiful thing is that we're a young team that has really played well together," said Anderson, who previously served as an girls' basketball assistant coach at Brea Olinda and as head coach at Colony, a school he led to a Southern Section championship game before he arrived at Troy. "Maddie (Barrett) is our leader, our defensive stopper inside.
"We've also played an extremely tough schedule. We went to South Carolina for a tournament and played some of the top teams in the country, including Spring Valley, [which] was ranked fifth nationally. It was a great experience for the girls. We also have big wins locally. We beat L.A. Narbonne and Hanford, which is one of the top teams in the Central Section."
Troy, without Barrett in the lineup due to illness, dropped its second game of the season to Long Beach Poly; "They ran us out of the gym," Anderson said of the Jackrabbits. The Warriors later lost a Dec. 23 game to Spring Valley (53-42) at Myrtle Beach, S.C. They wouldn't lose again until Jan. 29, when Edison came to the Troy gym and emerged with a 46-32 win.
"Edison came into our place and played very well, and we didn't," Anderson said. "We played good defense, which we pride ourselves on, and held Edison to under 50 points. We're the only team to do that this year. But we didn't hit our shots, shots that we normally hit. Neither team shot well, for that matter."
Anderson said that his team was just five of 22 shooting from inside 10 feet and just one of 15 from three-point range.
"Our defense kept us in that game," he said. "I give Edison credit because they played well. This time around, it's important for us to continue to play our brand of defense and execute on offense. Last time we played them, we held Bonnie (Samuelson) to 17 (points) and Karlie (Samuelson) to 13 (points). They're two great players and we need to be at our best again."
On Saturday, Troy bolted to a 40-16 halftime lead on No. 3 Woodbridge and played "about as perfect a half as we could have," Anderson said.
Edison, which also played a stout nonleague schedule, is coming off a Saturday semifinal victory over Rancho Cucamonga, a physical game where "50 fouls were called," Chargers Coach Dan Wiley said. Edison sank 26 of 29 free-throw attempts. Rancho Cucamonga went 17 of 26 from the foul line.
Wiley also remembers the first meeting against Troy.
"Neither one of us shot particularly well that game," he said. "Everybody has improved since that game and I'm just hoping that our senior experience pays off.
"Troy runs a great press and they're tenacious on defense. It's tough to beat a team twice."
"It was a pretty ugly game, to be honest," Samuelson recalled. "We're both hard-working teams and should be playing our best Thursday. It should be a great game."
Wiley is taking Edison to a title game for the first time in his three-year tenure at the school. Tonight's final is the second finals appearance in their careers for Bonnie Samuelson, Christina Marquette, Riley Horton and Lauren Grego, he said. The Chargers lost to Brea in a division final two years ago.
Edison has won one CIF title in girls' basketball, that honor belonging to the 1986-87 team.
"We were looking at that the other day after practice," Samuelson said. "It's been a long time since the school has won CIF. We're super excited for the opportunity to play for the title."
The Edison-Troy game caps a big day at Anaheim Arena. A four-game championship finals schedule begins at 3 p.m. with the girls' Division 6AA game between Mesa Grande Academy and Rio Hondo Prep. The boys' Division 3AA title game between Price and La Cañada follows at 4:45 p.m. and the girls' Division 2A final between Harvard-Westlake and Canyon/Anaheim at 6:30 p.m. precedes the Edison-Troy game.