It’s been 11 years since Hart and Canyon faced off in the first CIF-Southern Section final to feature two Santa Clarita Valley girls basketball teams, and the game’s two coaches have long since moved on. Dave Munroe, Hart’s coach from 1989 to 2007, is retired and lives in Denver. Stan Delus, Canyon’s head man from 2004 to 2008, is an assistant girls varsity coach at Etiwanda High in Rancho Cucamonga. Time and space haven’t altered either man’s memory of the 2006 Division 1A final. They both agree: Taylor Lilley’s half-court shot to beat the first-quarter buzzer changed the game’s direction.
With Canyon and Valencia set to play Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Division 1AA title game at Honda Center in Anaheim, The Signal asked Munroe and Delus about the Indians’ 54-37 victory all those years ago and about what this year’s finalists can expect in the latest crosstown showdown. First, the half-court shot heard round the Pyramid. The Indians entered the 2006 final at Long Beach’s Pyramid as the clear favorite. It was Hart’s fourth division final in five years, and the Indians were the bracket’s No. 4 seed. Canyon, on the other hand, had gone 5-5 in Foothill League play and staged a mad series of upsets just for a shot at the 26-win Indians. Still, the Cowboys didn’t back down. “We were confident,” Delus said by phone Wednesday. “It was a battle of wills and it was a good game early.” In fact, with just seconds left in the first quarter, Canyon led 9-5. Then Lilley electrified Hart’s fan base. She caught an inbounds pass, took a couple dribbles and let the ball fly just shy of half court. Munroe, frustrated with his team’s play, had turned his back, already focused on fixing things for the second quarter. He heard the crowd and he heard his daughter, Jenny, who was sitting close by. “‘Taylor just hit a half-court shot,” Munroe recalls her saying. “… That shot catapulted us.” Oppositely… “That deflated us a little bit,” Delus said. It sparked a 14-0 run for Hart, which built a lead it never lost. Lilley, who went on to star at the University of Oregon and become the first SCV prep player to compete in the WNBA, finished with a game-high 19 points. “They had a veteran ball club,” Delus said, “and one of the best shooters in the country in Taylor Lilley.” Canyon, not unlike this year’s Cowboys, had the advantage in the paint, boasting 6-foot-4 Cheryl Stevens and 6-footer Brittany Thomas. A game between two rival teams, though, Delus said, doesn’t ultimately come down to strategy. “It’s that thing where X’s and O’s are really out the window,” he said, “because you know each other so well. It’s pretty much who wants it the most, who makes the slight adjustments in crucial moments of the game. It comes down to sure desire between the players.
“if you’ve gotten that far, you have a darn good team, so relax.” -Dave Munroe,
Former Hart coach
“Valencia, I believe has a good starting five that’s been together for awhile, where Canyon has two good post players, solid guards, some veterans and some young players.” Delus believes that Canyon carries some momentum after beating Valencia by 16 in their most recent meeting on Feb. 3 (Valencia won the first two matchups of the season by a combined three points), but he said it’s not something Valencia can’t get past. “Valencia does have a veteran ball club who can overcome that and continue their (own) momentum,” he said . Delus doesn’t personally know Canyon coach Jessica Haayer, but based on her leading Canyon to the Division 2AA final last year and a return trip in 2017, he said she should stick to what’s been working. Munroe’s advice was similar for Valencia coach Jerry Mike, who served as Munroe’s assistant during the 1989-1990 season when the Indians won the Division 5A title. “You have to have fun,” said Munroe, who coached in five CIF title games, winning two. “You’re going to be nervous, the girls are going to be nervous. There might be some uncharacteristic errors you have to play through. “…(But), if you’ve gotten that far, you have a darn good team, so relax, go out there and do what you do.”