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February 24, 2010 > Newark girls claims MVAL crown

Newark girls claims MVAL crown

By Nick Zambrano
Photos By William Mancebo

In the beginning of January, first year Washington High School girls varsity basketball coach Clarence Benjamin made the boldest of statements: "We're here to prove that Washington is back." Last year, Washington went 13-14 overall, 4-8 in league and finished on the outside of the MIssion Valley Athletic League (MVAL) Shaughnessy playoffs.

Fast forward to 2010. Under the tutelage of Benjamin, the Lady Huskies found themselves just one game shy of the ultimate turnaround - an MVAL title - when they faced off with Newark Memorial High School on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Washington's dream fell short, however, as the Lady Cougars notched another MVAL title with a 57-32 victory.

It was the sixth game in six days for Washington; the fifth for Newark.

"We didn't have any legs, but I like what I've seen and that's always a plus," said Benjamin.

Because both teams were regular season co-champions (both teams finished 9-3), a single-game playoff was needed to determine the top spot in the Shaugnessy playoffs. Newark won that game, 46-40, on Wednesday, Feb. 17. That was game three of Washington's six-day tour of duty, and it was also the first of three times that the teams met in the week alone.

On Friday, Feb. 19, the two teams met again, this time it was Washington who was dubbed the winner, 57-49.The Lady Huskies carried over the momentum from their 22-point first quarter through the rest of the game, despite a late push by Newark.

Since Newark had succeeded in collecting the top seed, they needed to be defeated twice in order to be knocked out of the tournament, thus the need for Saturday's showdown. If Newark had won the Friday affair, it would have won the title outright.

In the four prior match-ups with the Lady Huskies this year, senior guard Chaunise Powell has averaged 19 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. In the final showdown, Powell - Newark's biggest threat - collected 13 points, 11 assists and five rebounds.

However, she was just apart of the bigger picture in Newark's offensive scheme.

"Overall, we just came ready to play," Powell said. "We knew it was going to be a fight, from beginning to the end. We just gave it all we had, knowing that this was the last chance we had to get it done."

Powell was one of three Newark starters that cracked double digits on the scorecard.

Fellow senior Franchesca Ruta got into the groove of things with her own 13-point output, 12 of those from behind the 3-point line.

"She had a little bit more rhythm in getting her feet ready to shoot, we've been working on that during the shoot around," said Reina of Ruta's performance.

Taylor Norman also found herself in the thick of it all once again. Despite a bruised arm, the freshman standout gathered 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Since the Lady Cougars won the MVAL crown, they automatically earn a bid into the North Coast Section (NCS) playoffs.

"Both Clarence (Benjamin) and I hope the draw doesn't have us playing each other again," said Newark coach Darryl Reina jokingly about a possible pairing with Washington in the NCS.

Reina and the Lady Cougars earned the number-seven seed in the NCS DI tourney and hosted MVAL-rival James Logan High School (Newark beat Logan in the MVAL semis, 50-34 on Thursday, Feb. 18) on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m.; Washington got in with an at-large bid as the number-nine seed and traveled to eight seed California High School for its first-round match-up, also on Tuesday night.

"I think we're back, period," said an optimistic Benjamin. "I think we've opened up a lot of people's eyes; we had a good season."

Also making it into the NCS DI tourney from the MVAL were Mission San Jose High School as the 10th seed, who went to seven-seed Livermore High on Tuesday; and American High School as the 12th seed, who traveled to fifth-seed Heritage High School on Tuesday.

Others making NCS bids were Hayward High School of the Hayward Area Athletic League (HAAL) - 12th seed in the DII tourney, traveled to no.-five Montgomery High on Tuesday; Moreau Catholic High of the HAAL - 11th seed of the DIII tourney, traveled to no.-six Analy High on Tuesday; Fremont Christian High of the Bay Counties League (BCL) - 14th seed in the DV tourney, travels to no.-three Head-Royce High on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m.; and California School for the Deaf of the BCL - sixth seed in the DVI tourney, hosts no.-11 Point Arena High on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

And Milpitas High School of the Santa Clara County Athletic League made it into the Central Coast Section DI tourney as the 16th seed and traveled to no.-nine Monta Vista High on Tuesday night.

All Tuesday, Feb. 23, results were unavailable at press. Please log onto the TCV Sports Web site to find out the winners: www.tricityvoice.com/sports.

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