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GIRLS' BASKETBALL: MIRA COSTA DENIES HART RETURN TO DIV. I-A FINAL MIRA COSTA 50, HART 40.

Byline: KEVIN CONNELLY

Special to the Daily News

STEVENSON RANCH -- Megan Richardson held her wrist cocked above her head as she coasted down the court Tuesday night.

It was midway through the fourth quarter of a Southern Section Div. I-A girls' basketball semifinal, and the Mira Costa High of Manhattan Beach standout could smell an upset after knocking down a 3-pointer from the right wing.

The shot provided the Mustangs with a double-digit lead they would not relinquish en route to a 50-40 victory over defending Div. I-A champion Hart of Newhall at West Ranch High in Stevenson Ranch.

Richardson finished with a game-high 20 points for fifth-seeded Mira Costa (24-6), which hounded the top-seeded Indians all night with a swarming 2-3 zone.

The Mustangs put a 17-game winning streak to rest for Hart (27-3), which was denied the Div. I-A title game for the second time in six years.

"This win was no fluke," Richardson said. "We proved we're the real deal tonight. Hart is a really tough team, and we shut them down defensively."

Britney Fitchpatrick had a team-high 14 points for Hart, which had trouble finding baskets inside against Mira Costa's stifling zone.

Indians forwards Tatianna Thomas and Megan Ford each scored 10 points, but the 40-point performance was the team's season-low.

"There was too much standing around," Hart coach Dave Munroe said.

"We did a very poor job of attacking on offense."

The victory was surprisingly efficient for Mira Costa, which did not trail the entire game. The Mustangs opened their first double-digit lead with 1:34 remaining in the second quarter, when a 3-point play by Richardson put the team ahead 21-11.

Hart cut its deficit to 21-16 at halftime, but Mira Costa took a 30-20 lead on a 9-foot jumper by Jasmine Rutledge. The Indians cut that deficit to seven points midway through the fourth quarter, when Richardson's 3-pointer provided the final dagger.

"I knew that shot was going in as soon as it left my hands," Richardson. "It felt amazing when it finally went through."

Mira Costa advances to face No. 3 San Clemente in the final Saturday at the Pyramid in Long Beach. It was the second time Mira Costa has defeated Hart this season, having knocked them off 46-45 on Dec. 27.

kevin.connelly@dailynews.com

(818)713-3607

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photo

Photo:

Hart's Megan Ford battles for a rebound with Mira Costa's Jasmine Rutledge, right.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 28, 2007
Words:408
Previous Article:GIRLS' SOCCER: T.O. IS DENIED IN DEFEAT MISSED CHANCE HURTS LANCERS TEMECULA VALLEY 3, THOUSAND OAKS 0.
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