Los Angeles Preps: Division 2AA

VILLA PARK -- The environment was just as dangerous as expected. The fight just as fierce as projected. The outcome, though, was true to form.

Showing the poise of a champion, top-seeded Ventura gave up the first nine points of the game, then roared back with a 67-53 quarterfinal victory at Villa Park.

The Cougars (27-2) won in a hostile environment against a game opponent. Had Villa Park (23-8) shot better from the field, it might have carried the momentum of the first 3-1/2 minutes to victory.

Instead, Villa Park was beaten by the team with 11 unflappable seniors—and not a single Division I college basketball recruit among them.

"It's a great win," said Dan Larson, whose team won a title in 2006 and reached the finals in 2009. "Villa Park is well-coached, very solid. A road win against a team like that is very valuable."

It's the only road game Ventura has played in the tournament, and it stands to be the only away game of the playoffs. The Cougars will host fourth-seeded Compton on Friday at Ventura College. A victory there will put them at the Anaheim Convention Center in the finals on a neutral floor.

Jared Wilson led Ventura with 20 points. Jon McMurry scored 14 and had 12 rebounds, and Dylan Houck scored 12 and had six assists.

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Orange County: Brea and Villa Park are warming to the occasion

March, 6, 2010
LONG BEACH -- An interested observer who arrived at an empty Pyramid during the intermission between morning and evening sessions walked over to reporters sitting courtside.

"Did they really win by 40?"

No, they won by42.

The question was asked by Jeff Sink, coach at Brea Olinda, and the subject matter was Santa Ana Mater Dei, the team that many expect Brea to play next week at USC's Galen Center for the right to play for the Division II state title.

"If you can't break Mater Dei's press, you can't beat Mater Dei," Sink said of the Monarchs, who beat Irvine Woodbridge, 71-29.

Mater Dei has lost only twice in the last two seasons, both times to Brea. On both occasions, Mater Dei was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

But, first things first. With an hour to go before tipoff to the Division 2AA finals, top-seeded Brea and second-seeded Villa Park are having a casual shoot-around. Brea has beaten Villa Park twice this season in Century League play, by 19 and 14 points, but the underdog Spartans are coming off an impressive 78-47 victory over third-seeded Huntington Beach Edison.

If Villa Park can knock down its threes -- always a longshot proposition in an arena setting like the Pyramid -- the Spartans may have a chance.