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GIRLS' BASKETBALL PREVIEW SCC SET AGAIN CARDINALS PUSH FOR RETURN TO PLAYOFFS.

Byline: Kirby Lee Special to the Daily News

Santa Clarita Christian has steadily progressed in the Southern Section Division V-A girls' basketball ranks.

The Cardinals reached the second round of the playoffs in 1998-99 and the quarterfinals last season for their furthest venture into postseason play. This season, Santa Clarita Christian is among the Division's top 25 in the preseason rankings.

``We have been taking one step forward,'' Santa Clarita Christian coach Tracey Scott said. ``Everybody will be gunning for us now that we are ranked, but the girls are encouraged.''

Junior point guard Amy Buehlman had a big impact on the Cardinals' ranking. The 5-foot-7 Buehlman, who earned second-team All-Southern Section honors as a sophomore, was the lone Santa Clarita Valley player in any division to receive all-section recognition.

This season, Buehlman will be joined by sister Amy, a 5-8 freshman forward. Brother Brandon Buehlman was a senior on the Santa Clarita Christian football and basketball teams last year.

Santa Clarita Christian will have an opportunity to gain area recognition next week in the Valencia tournament. The Cardinals received an invitation for the first time to compete in the event that includes larger public schools from Divisions I and II.

``It was 'Oh my gosh,' '' Scott said. ``It is an honor, but I was a bit apprehensive being in the big tournament. But I am excited about the great competition that will help us in the playoffs.''

The experience could be helpful in the long run with a sophomore-laden team. Tenth-graders Leticia Pena, Stacey Leonard, Kristen Mercier, Veronica Gottardi and Jenna Mardesich, who played sparingly as freshman, are expected to see extensive playing time this season.

Pena, Leonard, Mercier and Gottardi starred on Santa Clarita Christian's volleyball team that tied for the Westside League title and advanced to the Division V-A quarterfinals. The 6-2 Mardesich, who began playing basketball as a freshman, is steadily improving.

The sophomores' contributions are needed because of the early-graduation loss of Rachel Stone, a starter as a junior on last year's 18-7 team.

``We're really focusing on encouraging them to fill up (Stone's) spot,'' Scott said. ``They are the core and the future of the athletic program.''

Senior twins Amanda and Meagan Norris lend experience as third-year players. They also complement each other. Amanda is a strong rebounder, and Meagan is a good defender and shooter.

Senior Bipon Sira returns after taking off her sophomore and junior seasons because of academics. The Cardinals have also been bolstered by the addition of junior Kim Fox, a transfer from Washington, and freshmen Jennifer Langford and Stacy Odorizzi.

Scott calls the Cardinals the quickest and best-shooting team in her five-year tenure. The most important factor, though, has been the team cohesiveness that has materialized during preseason practice. Santa Clarita Christian does not have a separate period for basketball during the offseason and only had two weeks of preparation before Tuesday's season opener at Immanuel Christian.

``It has been exciting to see them encourage one another, spiritually and emotionally,'' Scott said. ``It is a really nice chemistry.''

AT A GLANCE

Team: Santa Clarita Christian girls' basketball

Coach: Tracey Scott, fifth year

Assistant: Larry Sulham

1999-00 record: 18-7

League: Westside

Top returnees: Amber Buehlman, Jr., 5-7, G; Leticia Pena, So., 5-5, G; Stacey Leonard, So. 5-7, F-C; Jenna Mardesich, So, 6-2, C; Meagan Norris, Sr., 5-7, F; Amanda Norris, Sr., 5-8, F; Kristen Mercier, So, 5-5, G; Veronica Gottardi, So, 5-7, F.

Top newcomers: Kim Fox, Jr., 5-4, G; Bipon Sira, Sr., 5-8, F; Jennifer Langford, Fr. 5-4, G; Amy Buehlman, Fr., 5-8, F; Stacy Odorizzi, Fr, 5-7, F-C.

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

Leticia Pena, Amber Buehlman, Stacey Leonard, Jenna Mardesich and Kristen Mercier, left to right, will play key roles in Santa Clarita Christian's bid to return to the Southern Section playoffs.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News

Box: At A Glance (see text)
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Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Words:648
Previous Article:DAILY UPDATE.
Next Article:SANTA CLAUS TAKES TO RAIL.


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