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ARTESIA GIRLS HOLIDAY CLASSIC – Pioneers watch title banner unveiled, then rout Compton Early College to advance to finals



Moments before the Artesia High girls basketball game against Compton Early College last Friday night, the 2019-2020  CIF-Southern Section Division 5AA championship banner was unveiled from the top of the gymnasium. The Pioneers went on to crush Compton Early College 60-19. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, contributing photographer.


December 15, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


Artesia High’s boys and girls basketball programs are known for dropping banners from the top of its gymnasium and another one was unveiled last Friday night when the 2019-2020 girls team celebrated its championship season. Of the 15 players who were on that team which finished 26-8 and won the CIF-Southern Section 5AA title, nine of them are on this season’s squad.

Moments after the players and first-year head coach Mollie Williams saw the newest banner unveiled, the Pioneers routed Compton Early College 60-19 to wrap up pool play action in the Artesia Girls Holiday Classic. They would go on to fall to Los Altos High 49-33 in the championship game last Saturday afternoon to see its record go to 9-3 entering this past Monday.

“It’s real special, especially as a former basketball player here,” Williams said. “And to have the girls that I’m coaching to do something that unfortunately I was unable to do, it’s good to be a part of it.”

As a player, the farthest Williams went in the playoffs was the quarterfinals, and that came as a freshman during the 2004-2005 season. In her last two seasons, Artesia was bounced out in the first round. In fact, Williams said she was feeling a bit nostalgic as the banner dropped above and behind the Artesia bench.

“I went down memory lane a little bit, but the good thing about memory lane is that you learn from your past and now you know what you can bring in here,” Williams said. “We can possibly do it again. So, we asked some of the girls who were on that [championship] team [what it was like] and we’re hoping to try to do it again.”

After Iyana Paige tied the game at 2-2 one minute in, the Pioneers scored the next 37 points and were never challenged the remainder of the contest. Senior Jordan Manning set the tone in the opening quarter with seven points and six rebounds while junior Samerika Young added four points, four rebounds and two assists in the stanza.


Artesia High senior Aminah Roberts defends against Heaven Thomas of Compton Early College in last Friday night’s pool play game of the Artesia Girls Holiday Classic. Roberts hit a pair of three-pointers and finished with eight points as the Pioneers routed the Rising Phoenix 60-19. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.



Manning was on her way to having her best game of the season when she added 11 points in the second quarter along with three steals, two assists and another rebound. She would end the game with a season-high 22 points while Young had 15 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.

Artesia began the tournament on Dec. 8 with an unscheduled game against former Suburban League nemesis Mayfair High and lost 51-48 in overtime as Young and senior Sha’mira Barnes scored 12 and 10 points respectively. Immediately after that game, the Pioneers blasted Washington Prep 48-14 as senior Esperanza Vilda led the way with a dozen points. Nine other players would score with none of them posting more than eight points. The next night, the hosts cruised to a 50-4 win over Edgewood High as 10 players scored, led by Vilda and senior Sydney McKee, who each had eight points. Prior to the Los Altos loss, Artesia’s two setbacks have been by a combined five points.

“I like our continued effort,” Williams said. “There are still a lot of things that we have to learn in a new system. But the fact that they’re willing to learn and trying to get better; adapt to the new system that we’re trying to put in is really big and it’s aspiring for a new coach.”

Artesia will host Lakewood High on Saturday before going to Bell Gardens High on Tuesday. After that, the Pioneers have one scheduled game the last week of the month before 605 League action begins next month.