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By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
SANTA ANA.–For Michelle Miller and the Panthers from Polytechnic School in Pasadena, this season has been about one thing from the start: adding to their gymnasium’s decor.
A flowing championship banner would indeed nicely augment their home court’s ambience.
The girls will make room for the flag next to the one their predecessors earned in 1992, after Saturday’s 55-42 victory over Chadwick, in the CIF-SS Div. 5A championship. The game, played at Mater Dei, was the third time this season that Poly matched up against their rivals from the Prep League, and the third time they beat them.
Junior guard Michelle Miller led all scorers–as usual–with an astounding 32 points. Last year’s Pasadena Star-News player of the year also added nine rebounds, two assists and two shots blocked. She said this game continued her team’s mantra: it was all about the banner.
“We’re so excited, especially for our seniors,” Miller said.
Miller tossed a note of intrigue into the game by picking up three personal fouls early on. Rather than pulling her game down a notch, however, she went into overdrive after halftime, scoring seemingly at will and involving teammates such as Courtney Foster, who netted 11.
“It’s important for us to play as a team,” Miller explained. “I know I have to do my part, lots of scoring, but everybody played great defense today, and if we put in a real team effort, we do well.”
Miller’s mother, Jeri, said that after last year’s disappointing loss in the semifinals, the team has worked with a focused energy on winning a title.
“It’s been 20 years since the last one, before they were born,” Mrs. Miller said. “Michelle’s been working hard and getting better all the time. She had three fouls early and that can change the complexion of the game, but she fought through it.”
The Panthers began the CIF State tournament Tuesday, hosting Vincent Memorial in the Div. 5 bracket. Results of the game, which was played after the Rafu went to press, will be available at www.Rafu.com.
While Poly was having their way with Chadwick, across town at the Anaheim Arena, the boys from Capistrano Valley were having their own troubles with Loyola in the Div. 1A title game. The quick, athletic Loyola team sprinted out to a 17-point lead by halftime and never looked back, en route to a 74-58 drubbing of Capo.
Capo’s hot-shooting senior Taylor Hamasaki, was sufficiently stymied by the Loyola defense and managed only eight points in the loss.
“They’re a tough team,” Hamasaki conceded after the game. “They’re very athletic, they have very good guards who guarded me very well. It was very tough, but I tried to keep aggressive and create opportunities for my team.”
Hamasaki said the difference was simple: the Loyola defense made shooting a challenge, to say the least.
“We didn’t shoot well. I myself was only one for eight, normally I try to be around 50 percent. I guess I just couldn’t find it today.”
Jacob Hazzard led all scorers with 23 for Loyola, while Nick Thomas had the high for Capistrano Valley with 19.
Hamasaki said his team will need to focus on rebounding, as his Cougars began the State tournament Tuesday at Westchester.
“That was the problem in this game. We need to do a lot better on the boards and keeping people in front of us against the next team we play. That’s a big part of the game for us.”