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A Shout Out to the '09 Champs

Posted: February 25, 2008 4:05 a.m.
Updated: April 27, 2008 5:03 a.m.
Richard Nixon, without even giving two-weeks notice, quit his job as United States president in 1974.

I was minus-eight at the time.

Hank Aaron, despite lazily and stubbornly not injecting his body with steroids, became baseball's home run king that year.

Leonardo DiCaprio's mom gave birth to a handsome baby.

George Foreman and Muhammad Ali rumbled in a jungle.

And over in Canyon Country, the Canyon High School girls basketball team failed to successfully defend its league title.
It hasn't gotten it back since.

The Canyon High badminton team has won a league crown more recently than the girls basketball squad despite shuttlecocks no longer being a part of the school's athletic budget.

While Hart has won or shared seven straight and 17 of the past 20 league crowns, Canyon, despite a resurgence over the past four seasons under coach Stan Delus, has none since the winter of 1973.

Why bring this up now?

With every basketball team now officially in season-over-mode, this is my chance to declare that next year is the year the Cowboys' drought ends.

Read my keystrokes. Canyon High girls hoops will finally get bragging rights over badminton by the end of next season.

To the casual observer, it might seem the Cowboys just came off a nothing-to-write-home-about campaign.

Might seem an odd pick.

They made the playoffs, but almost everyone makes the playoffs. West Ranch, which tied for last place in league with a 1-9 record, made the playoffs.

Canyon then lost in the opening round against Mira Costa.

By 24 points.

And the Cowboys didn't even climb to second-place in the Foothill standings this year.

But there are a lot of buts.

The Cowboys did it with a team whose two best players were only 10th-graders.

One, off-guard Angelica Sahagun, was coming back from a serious preseason knee injury. The other, point guard Brooke Lemar, was new to the Canyon program after a transfer from league rival Golden Valley High.

Canyon had four freshmen and four sophomores on the varsity roster. All will get better.

Keep in mind, too that every other Foothill League team, with the exception of co-league champion Hart, lost in the first round. And that Hart lost in the second round. And that Mira Costa is the only SCV-eliminator still alive in the playoffs.

Canyon got the hardest draw.

West Ranch, despite tying for fifth-place, started its playoffs against fifth-seed Foothill High, while Canyon, the No. 3 team, played third-seeded Mira Costa.

Prior to Canyon's season-ending loss, hope was established with the play of its youngsters.

Canyon did one thing neither the Indians nor Centurions accomplished, beating Valencia in both of its meetings.

By 22 points in the finale.

In the Cowboys' third-place 6-4 league performance- all four of the losses coming against co-champions Saugus and Hart- the hump was always well within their reach.

In their final showdown with Saugus, the Cowboys lost by just two points. One basket.

In its last go-around with Hart, Canyon led by two in the final minute, only to allow a Megan Ford putback and then a Kelli Lewis free throw on a controversial foul call, losing 46-45.

Canyon forced 35 turnovers.

Only inexperience stood in its way of closing things out.

In the first matchup, Canyon lost by seven points, 54-47, but controlled the game for the first 2 1/2 quarters before collapsing late in the third and then fourth.

Canyon rushed its shots late.

It failed to keep Ford off the offensive glass, bailing her out by sending her to the foul line.

Delus, who is so hard to satisfy in the heat of battles he sometimes yells at his players after made baskets, could do nothing but grin afterward.

Not because he was amused.

More that with a full year of experience under his team's belt and with Hart losing all five of its starters to graduation, things will be different next season.

Delus wouldn't make excuses for his third-place season.

But I will.

The issue was youth.

And unfortunately for the 1974 Canyon High badminton team, it's not going to be an issue the next time around.


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