Los Angeles Preps: Steve Smith

Ranked 1-2 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, Los Angeles Windward completed a sweep of the three teams that have ruled girls' basketball in Southern California—and state—for years.

In Mater Dei's Meruelo Events Center in the final game—the marquee game—of the first day of the Nike Extravaganza, Windward scored a 65-62 victory over the two-time defending state champion and host Monarchs.

Windward (21-3) came into the game ranked No. 6 nationally in the ESPN Powerade Fab 50; Mater Dei (21-3) is No. 11.

"When you play in these kinds of games, you take a risk," Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan told the Orange County Register. "Why play teams you can beat by 50, what does that prove?"

He said that his team will be better for having played the game regardless of the outcome, a sentiment that was echoed by Windward coach Steve Smith about a 62-48 loss three weeks ago to the No. 1 team in the country, Phoenix St. Mary's.

"Without that game," Smith told Maxpreps, "not sure how this one turns out."

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CIF Southern California Regional final

Girls Division IV

Colony High School in Ontario

La Jolla Country Day (27-4) vs. Windward (27-4), Saturday, 5 p.m

La Jolla Country Day and Windward have played twice this season. The first time was in the championship game of the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 Tournament in December. Country Day won that game, 71-53.

The second game was a bit closer. Country Day won in overtime, 45-39, in the Nike Tournament of Champions on Dec. 22.

In both games, Windward was without its leading rebounder and shot blocker Amani Stafford. She missed the first 13 games of the season trying to improve her grades. Not that she was struggling acadamically – Windward coach Steve Smith said she had a 3.2 grade-point average – but she wanted to get it above the 3.5 mark.

“It was a catch-22,” Smith said. “We would probably have two losses instead of four losses. But we had to develop at a more rapid pace. It prepared us for Bishop Montgomery.”

Windward has beaten Bishop Montgomery twice, including in the championship game of the Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs. Windward also has wins over Oaks Christian, Fullerton Rosary and Atascadero in the playoffs.

Since Stafford returned to the team, Windward is 18-0. The Wildcats are coming off a 79-40 win over LACES in the semifinals of the Southern California Division IV Regional on Saturday night.

Country Day has a seven-game winning streak and hasn’t lost since Feb. 4 to Mater Dei in the Nike Extravaganza. The Torreys won the San Diego Section Division IV championship over The Bishop’s.

Key players: Windward has six players who have scored more than 200 points this season. Jordin Canada leads the team with 12.4 points per game. Stafford is second at 12.3 points per game. Courtney Jaco is scoring 12.2 points per game. Stafford leads the team with 11.9 rebounds per game and 4.3 blocks per game. Canada, the team’s freshman point guard, is avergaing 4.9 assists per game.

Kelsey Plum leads Country Day in scoring and assists. She is averaging 19.7 points and 4.8 assists. Maya Hood is the team’s leading rebounder at 11.9 per game. She is also second on team in scoring at 18.7 points per game. Four players are averaging double figures in scoring. Kaylah Miller comes in at 12.4 points and Malina Hood is averaing 10.2 points.

Inland Empire: Games of the week

September, 30, 2010
What started as a blip on the radar screen at the start of the season has quickly morphed into one of the marquee games in the Inland Empire.

Chino Hills (3-1) is set to play Redlands East Valley (3-0) on Friday night at University of Redlands, a meeting between two teams that are picking up momentum with each snap of the ball.

Chino Hills is led by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (pictured), rated the No. 1 cornerback in the state by ESPN. Ekpre-Olumu, who took an official recruiting trip to Oregon two weeks ago, has been spending much of his energy on the offensive side of the ball, leading the Huskies in rushing and receiving.

With opponents opting to throw away from his side of the field, Steve Smith has effectively covered his ground with four interceptions.

Redlands East Valley, ranked No. 4 in the Inland Empire by ESPNLA.com, lost three Division I college recruits to graduation, including three-year starting quarterback Tyler Shreve, but gained attention this season with wins against Clovis East and Orange Lutheran.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Other games to watch:

Rancho Cucamonga (4-0) at Redlands (3-0-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

Redlands has won all three games by a touchdown or less, but staying close to the speedy Cougars will be an uphill battle. Rancho Cucamonga is led by running back Sateki Finau and wide receiver Donovan Harden, who have combined for 14 touchdowns this season. ESPNLA.com’s pick: Rancho Cucamonga 31, Redlands 17.

No. 20 Eastvale Roosevelt (3-0) at Corona Santiago (1-2), Friday, 7 p.m.

Roosevelt is up against its first real test of the season in this Big VIII League opener. The Mustangs will face a team that plays extremely well at home and had an extra week to prepare. Keeping running back Joey Legere (10 touchdowns) out of the end zone will be key for the Sharks. ESPNLA.com’s pick: Roosevelt 21, Santiago 14.

No. 23 Encino Crespi (3-1) at No. 7 Vista Murrieta (3-0), Friday, 7 p.m.

Crespi returns to the Inland Empire for the first time since losing to Corona Centennial, 29-27, in 2006. The Celts are ranked 23rdin the latest ESPNLA.com top 25 and are building confidence after knocking off Clovis West, 34-33, two weeks ago. A matchup to watch is Vista Murrieta receiver Michael Mazur against Crespi defensive back Charles Washington. ESPNLA.com’s pick: Vista Murrieta 28, Crespi 14.