Wong felt the momentum coming for Washington 

To hear Vince Wong tell it, the turnaround actually began during a 25-point loss.

The coach of the Washington girls’ basketball team has guided the Eagles to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in Academic Athletic Association play. But he watched as the Eagles scuffled en route to a 1-11 start this season.

The final defeat was a 66-41 decision to Central of Fresno in the West Coast Jamboree, a game in which Wong finally saw some signs from his team despite the lopsided result.

"It doesn’t show in the final score, but we were really competitive in that game for three quarters," Wong said. "I was never really worried. I knew we were capable of playing better."

And since the loss to Central, the Eagles have done just that. Washington (5-11, 3-0 AAA) crushed Valley of Sacramento 55-22 in its final game in the West Coast Jamboree and has followed that up with wins in its first three league games (in which it has outscored opponents by a combined 162-86). Center Tierney Jones is gaining confidence and controlling the paint, while Wong calls Stephanie Truong "our point guard/everything."

Suddenly, the Eagles are starting to resemble the team that has gone 26-0 in regular-season league play the past two seasons and has won four of the last six AAA championships.

Next up for Washington is today’s 5 p.m. home game against International Studies Academy (9-7, 2-2). Looming on the schedule is a Jan. 26 showdown at Kezar Pavilion against rival Lowell (19-1, 5-0). The Eagles beat the Cardinals during the regular season last year but lost a 56-46 overtime decision in the AAA title game.

SPRINTING MUSTANGS: The Lincoln boys’ basketball team is also off to a fast start in league play, paced by the frenetic, up-tempo style of new coach Mike Gragnani. Gragnani formerly coached at Redwood of Larkspur and learned the system from former Clovis West coach Vance Wallberg (now at Pepperdine).

It’s a scheme predicated on creating chaos and turnovers and Lincoln (11-8, 5-0 AAA) has thrived in it thus far.

Kevin Robinson is averaging a team-leading 19.2 points per game, while Drew Bologna (11.0) and Aaron Hall (10.6) are also consistently reaching double figures.

"I’m extremely pleased with my guys," Gragnani said. "This group has picked up the system faster than any group I’ve coached."

The Mustangs face a huge challenge today at 5 p.m. when they host defending league champion Lowell (15-3, 4-1).

GIRLS’ WRESTLING: The CIF girls’ wrestling regional tournament will take place Friday and Saturday at Liberty High School in Brentwood. The event, which is not connected with the March 2-3 CIF state tournament, should draw a number of the top individuals from NorCal, including several from The City.

Information about the tournament is available online at the CIF web site.

E-mail Matt Elliser at melliser@examiner.com.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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