Los Angeles Preps: Nicole Tolbert
February, 29, 2012
By Blair Angulo | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ANAHEIM -- Even before the season began, Campbell Hall girls' basketball team members debated on possible hanging locations for a championship banner they had yet to win. Seniors had brainstormed since freshman year.
They're still unsettled on where the banner will go, but the hard part is done.
Top-seeded Campbell Hall captured the program's first section title Wednesday afternoon, routing Alpha League rival Brentwood, 66-29, in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4A championship at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena. In the process, the Vikings set a new record for fewest points allowed in the division's title game.
"It's really cool," said UCLA-bound Lauren Holiday, who fell one assist short of a triple-double with 16 points and 18 rebounds. "Making history hasn't hit me yet, but it's going to. I just have the jitters inside. It's a great feeling."
Campbell Hall beat Brentwood for the third time this season, and the last was the loudest. The Vikings exceeded their pregame goal of a 33-point margin, which they came up with rather creatively: The number of years seniors put into the program (four) plus leap day's unique number (29).
The Brentwood Eagles did not make a field goal in the second quarter, settling for only one free throw and allowing Campbell Hall (21-6) to set the tempo in transition. The Vikings held a 32-10 halftime lead.
"In the first three minutes we were competing," Brentwood coach Charles Solomon said. "But we didn't deal with adversity well. I take full responsibility for that. This didn't resemble the team that had made this playoff run. ... We missed some shots early."
Numerous players had recently complained about the sensitivity of the arena's rims, which, they said, are unforgiving. The hoops in Anaheim demand perfection -- too stiff to provide lucky bounces, even for soft-touch shooters. Campbell Hall's Natalia Azad avoided them altogether, making six of eight from beyond the arc.
"I was really comfortable," said Azad, who transferred to Campbell Hall when Montclair Prep cut its athletic program last summer. "There was no pressure. I just had fun."
Azad finished with a game-high 22 points, and Nicole Tolbert added 19 and seven rebounds. Drew Cabral had 10 points for Brentwood, which won back-to-back section titles in 2004 and 2005. The Eagles dug an inescapable hole by making only three of their 21 first-half shots.
"Our defensive effort was our best effort," Campbell Hall coach Toya Holiday said. "We're about getting stops, getting rebounds and pushing the ball."
Campbell Hall didn't encounter trouble during the tournament, reaching the title game with wins of 48, 24, 21 and 19 points. Now, the only problem they face is determining where they'll hang the banner.
"I want it to lie on the floor near where other teams warm up so they can see it," said the younger Holiday, whose brothers Jrue Holiday (UCLA, Philadelphia 76ers) and Justin Holiday (Washington) captured state crowns at Campbell Hall.
"Maybe by the doors near the entrance of the gym," Tolbert countered.
The debate continues.
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.