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SHOOTING FOR THE STARS PIONEERS HEADED FOR THE FINALS.

Byline: Amy Raisin Staff Writer

SIMI VALLEY - At least three of Simi Valley High's superstitious basketball players will don identical skateboarding socks for this weekend's Southern Section championship - a contest that is generating excitement among students on campus.

``We're a small-town school going into big things,'' said 10th-grader Kelsey McCalla, who, with her parents, has been a supporter of the Pioneers for several years. ``They just have a lot of energy and they don't bad-mouth other teams.''

In a time when many high schools have experienced tense relations between athletes and other social groups, Tuesday's playoff win against Rancho Verde High has drawn players and classmates together.

``This just brings (the school) closer together,'' said Michelle Minter, 17, who plans to attend Saturday's game at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, where Simi Valley will take on Mater Dei High School of Orange County for the Division I-A championship.

Team co-captain and senior Brett Michel took the win and the attention in stride Wednesday, without looking past the goal that still remains.

``It's nice to have people recognize you,'' said Michel, one of the players who plans to wear his ``lucky socks'' during the title game. ``We're doing it for ourselves, but it's nice to have people know that you're doing a good job.''

First-year coach Christian Aurand said his team's appearance in the finals is especially sweet because four of the 10 players are seniors who will graduate this summer.

``This is the last run for a couple of the guys. In the playoffs, every game can be the last game of the year for them,'' Aurand said. ``But to the team's credit, we had a goal and they never lost sight of that goal.''

The last time the Pioneers won the championship was in 1988. While neither the coach nor the students were around for that achievement, at least one member of the staff can recall the glory.

``I saw them win in '88,'' said Vi Brooks, school receptionist for 22 years. ``It was so exciting. All the kids are talking about this.''

Brooks added that the appearance in the final game not only elevates the school, but also the community.

``It does a tremendous amount for the school. And as a community, it just makes the whole community proud.''

Simi High officials said the game Saturday in Anaheim is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m., but added that the tip-off could fluctuate 15 minutes, depending on the decision of tournament officials.

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Photo: (color in Simi edition only) Simi Valley coach Christian Aurand, standing, jokes with basketball team members Brett Michel, left, and Ryan Bradshaw.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 2, 2000
Words:448
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