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Area squads seek playoff returns

Basketball: Sacred Heart, La Cañada and Prep look to make a playoff run again in 2011.

November 23, 2011|By Charles Rich and Andrew Shortall, charles.rich@latimes.com and andrew.shortall@latimes.com

In the three years since Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy Coach Gino Pacella took over the program, the Tologs have qualified for the postseason each season.

While Pacella is proud of the progression, there's still room for improvement with the Tologs competing in the ultra-competitive Mission League. Even after falling to runner-up St. Bernard in a quarterfinal contest in the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA playoffs last season.

"We have enough talent now and it's gotten better," said Pacella, who added that Alemany and Chaminade are the favorites to battle for first place in league with Flintridge Sacred Heart, Harvard-Westlake and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame battling for third place. "We have enough talent to grab a top-three spot in the Mission League.

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"I see our team developing. If we can continue to be able to put the pieces together, then there's no reason not to get an automatic playoff bid with a top-three finish in league."

Flintridge Sacred Heart will return three starters, including senior forward Ivy Fitzgerald, senior center Lana Haddad and junior guard Dana Budzyn. Fitzgerald, who missed eight games last season because of a knee injury, and Haddad will be expected to carry the rebounding load. Haddad averaged 13.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game for the Tologs last season, earning all-league second-team accolades.

Budzyn will be in position to distribute the ball up court and help make the Tologs' transition game seamless.

The Tologs, who will also have senior guard Maddie Romero in the mix, will also look to a deeper bench than they have had in recent seasons.

"As a whole, I think we now have some more big-game experience," Pacella said. "It will be interesting to see what type of numbers we are able to put up.

"The biggest focus for December and January will be to put things together so we can go deep again in the playoffs."

La Cañada High Coach Tamar Hill has the challenge of returning to the playoffs while replacing the two pillars of her offense last season — senior Kristene Hossepian and junior Cailan Howey, who moved to North Carolina for her senior year during the summer.

The Spartans advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs last year after upsetting St. Lucy's, 52-40, in the first round and falling to Bishop Montgomery, 73-31, in the second. La Cañada leaned on Hossepian and Howey throughout 2010. Both were the team's top scorers and averaged 11.3 and 9.1 points per game, respectively.

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