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Girls' basketball: Brea Olinda wins Southern Section Division 1AA semifinal

March 1, 2011 |  6:16 pm

Brea Olinda, the top-ranked team in the nation, proved to be too strong, too deep and too athletic for Moreno Valley Canyon Springs

The Ladycats will advance to the finals for the third consecutive season after winning their Southern Section Division 1AA semifinal, 55-36. 

After leading 19-18 at halftime, Jeanier Olukemi opened the third quarter with a quick seven points to give Brea Olinda a 26-21 lead. The Ladycats never saw their lead fall below three points again as they outrebounded the Cougars 42-32 and outshot them 37.5% to 25%.

Brea Olinda, however, did have a scare. 

It happened with 2 minutes and 38 seconds remaining in the first quarter, when senior center Justine Hartman slammed onto the hardwood and writhed on the floor in pain for a few minutes. She iced her knee for the remainder of the first half -- and the Ladycats saw their 14-3 first-quarter lead disappear. 

"When she went down, it took us really out of our flow," said Brea Olinda Coach Jeff Sink

Luckily for the Ladycats, Hartman said she just hyperextended her knee and the 6-foot-2 center reentered the game in the third quarter.

Olukemi led all scorers with 15 points for top-seeded Brea Olinda (29-0). Tear'a Laudermill had 13 points for fourth-seeded Canyon Springs (27-3).

Brea Olinda will play the winner of the Santa Ana Mater Dei-Santa Monica semifinal for the championship Friday at 8:45 p.m. at Anaheim Arena.

The Ladycats said they hope to play Mater Dei, ranked No. 3 in the nation by USA Today and ESPN. Although the schools are less than 20 miles apart, the coaches avoid playing each other during the season because its too stressful. 

But now, Sink said he's ready. 

"If it works out," he said, "you have the best teams in the nation playing each other in a CIF game. Let the best team win."

-- Melissa Rohlin