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2012-2013 GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Cerritos, Norwalk to be frontrunners in Suburban League

Basketball

By Loren Kopff

Mayfair had dominated the Suburban League for the past several seasons but a changing in the guard is on the horizon. Cerritos, with a new coach and the most experienced team returning, and up and coming Norwalk, which finished in second place last season, figure to battle for a league championship. Artesia and Valley Christian usher in new coaches while Gahr fields a team that has the potential to dethrone San Gabriel Valley League powerhouse Lynwood.

ARTESIA PIONEERS

12-17 overall record last season, 6-6 in the S

Basketball

Basketball (Photo credit: mvongrue)

uburban League, tied for fourth place, lost to St. Joseph 52-29 in the Division III-A second round

Head coach: Dayna Feenstra (first season)Team’s record previous five seasons: 41-84

Last time missed the playoffs: 2011

STARTERS LOST

Dana Arrington (6.3 points per game), Paige Culpepper (5.5 ppg.), Tina Heng

STARTERS RETURNING

SR Angie Avila (11.7 ppg.), SR Tangeray Beverly (5.5)

OTHERS RETURNING

SR Kimberly Tagumasi (3.4 ppg.)

Despite the Pioneers winning seven more games than the previous season and advancing past the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs for the first time since the 2004-2005 season, they have their fifth head coach in the past seven seasons, Artesia welcomes Dayna Feenstra, who was a member of the school’s 2001-2002 Division III-AA championship team. Feenstra, a teacher at her alma mater, is known more for her softball success at Artesia and said she slid into the head coaching spot once the opening came up.

“It’s actually very exciting,” Feenstra said. “It’s something new, different and I’ve always wanted to work here and actually be a coach for a program I played for and won a CIF [championship] for.”

Feenstra will inherit a team that has just three returning players from a program that has been low in numbers at all levels for the past few seasons. Senior Angie Avila will once again pace the Pioneers and as she goes, so will the team. She provides some tenacious defensive skills in addition to her scoring. Fellow seniors Tangeray Beverly and Kimberly Tagumasi will be asked to me mentors to the younger players.

“Oh, they are great players,” Feenstra said of her two returning starters. “Angie runs the offense well and Tang the same thing. I’ve always been impressed with those two both on and off the court. They’ve been doing well.”

Among the new players are senior Bianca Espinoza, a transfer from Cerritos whom Feenstra says is one of the biggest surprises and junior Keina Harris, who will possibly be a starter and help Beverly in the post area.

“I didn’t really get to see the girls play a lot last year,” Feenstra said. “Through conversation, I learned how they played. We have a whole different program. The way we run our offense and defense is completely different from before. Right now, it’s a big learning stage for our girls.”

Artesia hasn’t finished higher than fourth place since the 2007-2008 season and with the emergence of Cerritos and Norwalk, plus the young team that Feenstra will field, it will be tough to reach the upper half of the league. But Feenstra is still optimistic of a good season.

“I definitely believe in every situation, we should become better than we were last year,” Feenstra said. “I believe we’ll finish above .500. In regards of what place, I can’t answer that right now. I’m not really sure.”

CERRITOS LADY DONS

12-15 overall record last season, 7-5 in the Suburban League, third place, lost to Agoura 92-51 in the Division III-AAA first round

Head coach: Ariel Adams (first season)

Team’s record previous five seasons: 65-66

Last time missed the playoffs: 2011

STARTERS LOST

Ashley Juarez (8.3 points per game), Katey Kanamoto (11.8 ppg.)

STARTERS RETURNING

SR Deshields Fajardo (4.3 ppg.), JR Victoria Mura, SO Alyssa Movchan (8.6 ppg.)

OTHERS RETURNING

JR Jessica Ignacio, JR Stacey Suzuki, SO Taylor Hirata

If there is someone who can’t stop smiling, it would be new Cerritos head coach Ariel Adams, a former Lady Don for three seasons before transferring to Troy where she won a CIF championship in the 2002-2003 season. Adams replaces Holly Matchett, who had been at the helm for 10 seasons and had accumulated 154 victories while taking her teams to the playoffs nine times.

“It’s definitely a long time coming,” Adams said. “I was coaching at Mater Dei for three years and obviously the big picture was always to be a head coach. Holly took me under her wings and was very grateful to coach me through it. I’m just really excited to be coaching at a school where I work and played under Holly. So I know the culture very well. I’m really excited to take this program to the next level.”

Adams, who said the new position was a perfect fit for her, will have the luxury of six returning players headlined by senior Deshields Fajardo and sophomore Alyssa Movchan. Fajardo has been on varsity all four seasons and while she doesn’t score a lot, her defensive presence causes havoc for opposing teams. Movchan opened a lot of eyes as a freshman and has the ability to reach double figures.

“Her confidence is through the roof,” Adams said of Movchan. “She came back this year with a vengeance. She’s a vocal leader, her confidence is there and she’s definitely the real deal. She can definitely play at the next level.”

Adams said the returning players are faster than ever and she’s excited to give the new players some playing time to relieve some of the pressure from Fajardo and Movchan. Expect junior Stacey Suzuki to be a starter and possibly sophomore Taylor Hirata, who could have a breakout year.

New to the team will be senior Bali Leffall Young, who at 6’ 2”, brings some much needed height that Cerritos has been looking for in a while. Leffall Young doesn’t have much experience but will be used primarily for rebounding. Also coming in for rebounding purposes is senior Sidnie Whitaker. Junior Taylor Scott is a six foot power forward while junior Lauren Rhea, according to Adams, is a great defensive machine. Junior Agnes Seong and freshman Angelica Soltis, a point guard who figures to be the seventh or eighth person off the bench, are also varsity rookies.

“The returning group has jelled amazingly,” Adams said. “Their experience over the summer, their leadership on the court…they know each other really, really well and that’s going to help us as far as culturing in the new players. They know my style and they know what I expect.”

With the exception of the 2010-2011 season, the Lady Dons have finished first, second or third for over 15 seasons and Adams sees that happening again. She anticipates the two battles with Norwalk will be as close as they were last season.

“We’re definitely right in there,” Adams said “I actually spoke with the Norwalk coach and he definitely said the same thing. He said when we play our first league game on Jan. 2, that’s going to set the tone for the rest of the league. No pressure, but pressure. We’re definitely looking out for Norwalk and I think we have an excellent chance [of winning league], especially with Deshields being a senior. I personally want to give this to her. She deserves it and she can lead us there.”

GAHR GLADIATORS

20-9 overall last season, 7-3 in the San Gabriel Valley League, tied for second place, lost to Rio Mesa 45-43 in the Division III-AAA quarterfinals

Head coach: Al Dorogusker (10th season, 137-107)

Team’s record previous five seasons: 77-63

Last time missed the playoffs: 2005

STARTERS LOST

Zaneta Agu (7.0 points per game), Alii Salone (10.4 ppg.)

STARTERS RETURNING

SR Jasmine Gates (8.1 ppg.), SR Jewelyn Sawyer (25.4 ppg.), JR Ra’vyn Bowser (4.8 ppg.)

OTHERS RETURNING

SR Briana Anderson, SR Sydney Teodoro

Head coach Al Dorogusker coached the Gladiators to their third 20-win season under his watch and figures to have a fourth by the time February comes around. Gahr is stockpiled with experience and he believes this will be a better team than last year.

“It was a success but we really were disappointed in the end because we thought we had the best team in [Division] III-AAA,” Dorogusker said of last season. “I didn’t see any question in that”

The Gladiators were seconds away from advancing to the semifinals last season after rallying from 18 points down in the 1st half. They even had the lead with 90 seconds remaining. To ensure that the Gladiators will move farther in the playoffs, senior Jewelyn Sawyer will be the heart and soul of the team. She’ll move into a new position this season-point guard, which will be the first major change for Gahr. Dorogusker wanted junior Ra’vyn Bowser to be the point guard but now, she can learn from Sawyer.

“Right now, Jewelyn Sawyer might be the best player in the local area,” Dorogusker said. “She proved it all summer long. Nobody could contain her. She could do whatever she wanted. This year, she’ll be playing a lot of point guard.”

The second biggest change comes from senior Sydney Teodoro, who Dorogusker says is probably the best shooter on the team and whose ball handling and defense has improved. The one area of concern will be rebounding, which Gahr lost a lot of when Alii Salone graduated last season. Junior forward Cynthia Agu plans on getting the majority of rebounds and could score in double figures. Agu and Teodoro will round out the starting rotation with Bowser, Sawyer and senior Jasmine Gates.

“Our biggest problem that we’re worried about is replacing Alii Salone as our [top] rebounder,” Dorogusker said. “Alii wasn’t really big but nobody bulldozed her inside and she got every rebound that she could.”

Another new player who will see a lot of time off the bench as a point guard will be senior Annabel Valencia, who also brings solid defensive play. Senior guard Gabriela DaSilva, junior centers Kayla Bright and Kahlela Reece and sophomore guards Olivia Fobbs and Klarice Rios are also new to the team.

“This is the best team I’ve had here,” Dorogusker said. “It’s as good or better than the one I had with Raynal [Johnson], Shannan [Austin], Amber [Finley] and Mercedes [Taylor]. This team would compete with anybody and is a better shooting team than any team I’ve had.”

JOHN GLENN LADY EAGLES

8-19 overall last season, 1-11 in the Suburban League, tied for sixth place

Head coach: Linda Parra (11th season, 144-123)

Team’s record previous five seasons: 63-72

Last time made the playoffs: 2011

STARTERS LOST

Kimberly Orozco (5.6 points per game), Moshannae Summerise (10.0 ppg.)

STARTERS RETURNING

SR Angie Console (3.6 ppg.), SR Jayme Leal (1.5 ppg.), JR Myra Gomez (6.0 ppg.)

OTHERS RETURNING

SR Karla Castro, SR Ashley Perez, SR Lizeth Perez, SR Adrianna Pinkerton, JR Dominique Gomez

Last season was rough for head coach Linda Parra as the Lady Eagles had their fewest victories since Parra’s rookie campaign of 2002-2003. Glenn struggled with scoring all of last season and with the graduation of two of their three top scorers, the Lady Eagles might be in for another long season.

“I knew we were going to struggle and we struggled on the offensive end,” Parra said. “That’s where we lost those 19 games, because we couldn’t take care of the ball.”

This season, Glenn will be smaller than they’ve been in terms of height. Senior Angie Console and junior Dominique Gomez are the team’s two dominant post players. The bulk of the scoring will come from junior Myra Gomez, who has the potential to double her output of last season for a team that scored at least 50 points seven times last season but no more than 58 points.

“Myra is great; she’s going to work hard,” Parra said. “She’s still learning how to be a leader because she’s very quiet. She’s still not as aggressive as I want her to be offensively. But she has a lot of confidence. Angie has been a blessing. She’s going to be a factor.”

Senior Diana Morales, juniors Crystal Lopez and Mayra Ramirez and sophomores Lorens Mendoza and Rocio Resendiz are the newcomers.

“I honestly don’t think our league is as strong as it’s been in the past,” Parra said. “Teams are getting better, which is great to see. It’s always good to see programs who finish last place move up, like La Mirada. Bellflower and [Glenn] are so similar to each other because we both struggle offensively. There’s a chance [to make the playoffs] if we execute and play fundamental basketball.”

NORWALK LADY LANCERS

20-8 overall last season, 10-2 in the Suburban League, second place, lost to Esperanza 61-36 in the Division III-AAA second round

Head coach: Richard Drake (sixth season at Norwalk, 74-62, 19th overall, 247-178)

Team’s record previous five seasons: 74-62

Last time missed the playoffs: 2007

STARTERS LOST

Nia Lateju (13.1 points per game), Larissa Perez (7.9 ppg.), Michelle Pulido

STARTERS RETURNING

SR Cristina Batarse (4.4 ppg.), SR Maiya Griffin-McNair (7.8 ppg.),

OTHERS RETURNING

SR Jazzlyn Gaxiola (4.8 ppg.), SR Brenda Venegas

Norwalk head coach Richard Drake had the best season in school history and the Lady Lancers, with a senior-stacked squad, were that close to a Suburban League championship. So, what does Drake do for an encore?

“You have to understand that we lost nine girls last year,” Drake said. “We have four returners this year and I would say three of those four are quality players. But you have 10 new players and five of them are sophomores. While the sophomores are good, they have zero varsity experience. We try to get them a spring, summer and fall [season] to get them that feel. The first third of our season is going to tell us who we really are.”

Norwalk returns only four players but all four have enough experience to help the team win a league title. The biggest of those four is senior Maiya Griffin-McNair, whose health status could play a huge factor in the success of the team this season. Griffin-McNair had an implant surgically put in her side for diabetes. It’s still uncertain if she can play, or practice at 100 percent full strength or how many minutes in a game she can play.

Basketball

Basketball (Photo credit: Ludie Cochrane)

“We don’t know at this time to what degree that will affect her playing,” Drake said. “Will it hamper her? We’ve had to sit her out some practices because if her numbers go too high, she can’t play. When she’s able to play, I personally think she’s the best athlete this year in the Suburban League.”

Drake said he hopes to get at least 30 points a game from Griffin-McNair, and senior returning players Cristina Batarse, Jazzlyn Gaxiola and Brenda Venegas. Gaxiola, a 5’ 9” forward, was a big force coming off the bench last season and will be counted on to get some rebounds. She also has the potential to score in double figures.

The biggest newcomer for the Lady Lancers wasn’t even with the school last season. Sophomore guard J’Nae Harrison is a transfer from Lakewood and could possibly be that fifth starter. Harrison averaged 30 points a game as a freshman for Lakewood’s junior varsity team. Other top newcomers are senior forward Elizabeth Hernandez, who has a pretty good outside shot, can rebound and is very aggressive, according to Drake, and senior forward Briana Liera, a transfer from Santa Fe who won’t be eligible to play until the first league game on Jan. 2.

“I have two more years left and I want to make sure that in my final two years, I’m always competitive in the Suburban League,” Drake said. “For sure, I want to make a run at the Suburban League championship a couple of times. I made a run at it last year and lost out by one game. The window is there. It’s just if we break through.”

VALLEY CHRISTIAN LADY CRUSADERS

7-19 overall last season, 2-6 in the Olympic League, fourth place

Head coach: Ally Wade (first season)

Team’s record previous five seasons: 81-64

Last time made the playoffs: 2011

STARTERS LOST

Nia Archer (5.8 points per game), JR Amanda Chamberlain (8.2 ppg.), Ashlyn Lear, Kristen Lester (9.0 ppg.), Vanna Mageo (6.8 ppg.)

The two themes for Valley Christian this season are back to the basics and bring it back. The latter is what new head coach Ally Wade hopes to accomplish. She takes over for Katie Hardeman and is eager to revitalize a program that stumbled last season, just two years removed from advancing to the Division V-AA finals. Wade played at El Dorado and Long Beach State University and has been an assistant at Villa Park and Brea Olinda the past two seasons.

“This is my first head coaching job, so I am very excited,” Wade said. “I am blessed that we have a young squad this year. We have a couple of seniors but our core [will be] sophomores. When I was interviewing for this job, the first thing I look at is the school history and I had no idea of the history here, which [former head coach] Eleanor Dykstra established. My biggest thing is why can’t we get that tradition back?”

V.C. was to return two players but juniors Amanda Chamberlain and Kenna Mageo decided to pursue other activities. Both of them combined to average 13.5 points a game last season. So, the Lady Crusaders will field a team of varsity rookies.

The team will consist of seniors Taylor Dantuma, Emily Dekker, and Serena Napier, junior Amber Binford, sophomores Cherilyn De Jong, Hailey Garcia, Nicole Parker and Kate Vande Gate and freshmen Katie Feller and Emma Phiefer. Binford was the junior varsity most valuable player last season. Wade said that there are currently no set plays and she hasn’t yet touched on the press or fast breaks. They’ve barely touched on defense and Wade tells the team that every day is like a tryout.

“There’s nowhere to go but up for me,” Wade said. “It is a rebuilding year. That’s all we can do. We have nothing to lose. None of these girls have played a varsity game before. So, I’m sure there are going to be nerves. We’re the underdogs, so we don’t really have high expectations. We just have our goals and getting better every day is our biggest goal. If that’s what we do this season, then it will be a success in my eyes.

“I’m young and I can relate to the girls,” Wade added “I feel like I’m still very much a part of the game and I miss it so much. That’s why I coach. That’s where my passion comes from. I love being in the gym with them every day and seeing them improve.”

 

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