By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
MANHATTAN BEACH.– March, 1974. “Blazing Saddles” was No. 1 at the movies and “Seasons in the Sun” and “Boogie Down” were topping the pop charts. Nixon White House aides H.R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman were indicted over the Watergate case and the NBA awarded a franchise to New Orleans.
It was also the last time a girls’ basketball team from Mira Costa High School celebrated a CIF Southern Section championship.
There weren’t any bell-bottoms in the gym on Wednesday night (a few old-school Afros, though), but the Lady Mustangs are looking at the chance to turn the clock back 40 years, as they earned a trip to the CIF Div. 2AA Finals with a 40-33 victory over rival Redondo Union.
Mira Costa will face Culver City Friday night in Santa Ana with the title on the line. It’s the Mustangs’ first trip to the finals since 2008, when their roster included superb frosh guard Kylie Nakamine.
“This is pure happiness,” said Mira Costa junior guard Keilani Ikehara, after emerging from the locker room with a broad smile after the win. “We said all year that we wanted to get back to the finals and that’s what we did.”
The relatively small – and very loud – gymnasium at Mira Costa was packed on Wednesday, with throngs of supporters for both teams turning out in full force. Redondo even had a contingent dressed in wrestling gear, cheering through bullhorns.
Mira Costa (22-10) jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter, but it was Ikehara’s two 3-point baskets to start the second period that really put Redondo at an emotional disadvantage. The Sea Hawks would trail for the remainder of the game.
Ikehara finished with eight points, while Haley Tojo added three.
Mira Costa played sparkling defense, keeping Redondo off balance and not allowing them to put together any kind of scoring run. The Sea Hawks also struggled mightily at the free throw line.
“I don’t think it was the crowd that got to us, just ourselves, our own lack of focus,” said Redondo junior Nao Shiota, who was held to just two points. “As a team, we need to focus better at both ends and we have to improve.”
Tojo said once her Mustangs hit the floor, they were ready to play.
“They’re our rivals, so we really wanted to win,” she said. “When we got onto the court, we played our game, and that’s what we’ll have to do on Friday [against Culver City.]”
Tip-off for the final at Godinez High School is set for 8 p.m.
Redondo (20-10), meanwhile, will wait to see if they receive a berth into the State tournament, when the pairings are announced early next week. Shiota said she and her teammates won’t be lounging until then.
“We’re not going to be sitting around, we’ll be in the gym,” she said.