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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Valley Christian girls basketball no match for defending CIF-Southern Section champions


Valley Christian High senior Samantha Sims (#5) and Madison Watts of Mary Star of the Sea High battle for possession of the ball in last Saturday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 2A first round playoff game. Watts scored a game-high 30 points in Mary Star of the Sea’s 63-32 victory over the Defenders. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.



February 17, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


SAN PEDRO-It would have taken more than just a tall order for the Valley Christian High girls basketball team to upset 12th-ranked Mary Star of the Sea High in last Saturday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 2A first round game. The defending 4AA champions, who lost once last season, featured 5’9” sophomore Madison Watts, who was averaging 24.5 points a game and 12.5 rebounds a game.

So, when the Defenders led 10-6 before six minutes had elapsed in the contest, first-year interim head coach Dan Leffler knew it was a matter of time before the doors would cave in. And they did in a big way. The Stars went on a 27-0 run over the next 9:37 to blow the game wide open and end V.C.’s season in a 63-32 contest.

“I watched enough film on them before I came here to know what’s going to happen,” said Leffler. “I thought we would handle it a little bit better than we did. I thought there might have been some stretches where we could have maybe put a few points together.”

Watts turned the ball over four times in the first quarter but still scored eight points while senior Gillian Doplemore was doing all she could to keep her team in the game. She had four points and half a dozen rebounds in the opening stanza and when it ended, V.C. was trailing by a respectable five points. But the lone points it would score in the second quarter didn’t come until there were 41.1 seconds left and by that time, it was 33-13.

“I knew the pressure was coming,” said Leffler. “It was just a matter of time before they started to trap and get us on the sideline and do things that we tend to do on the regular, which is turn the ball over. It’s basically unrecoverable at that point.”

The outcome may not have changed much, but it didn’t make things better with Doplemore and junior Carissa Kamstra each picking up their third foul before midway point of the second quarter. The former would not score in the stanza while the latter, who had one basket in the first quarter, wouldn’t score until the fourth quarter. Doplemore would foul out nearly halfway through the fourth quarter and ended the night with a team-high eight points and 13 rebounds.

“It hurts us a little when Carissa is not there because she’s probably got the best shot on our team,” said Leffler. “But, with the tempo, they didn’t get into their offense. [Mary Star of the Sea] was stealing the ball at halfcourt or bad passes from us.”

Nine of the other 11 players who suited up would get into the scoring column with no one scoring more than four points and the team turned the ball over 31 times. Meanwhile, Watts was her usual self, leading everyone with 30 points and eight rebounds and remained in the game until the end while Andrea Lopez added eight points. But Leffler had a different point of view on the night that Watts had.

“It’s a different story when you coach that way,” said Leffler. “She wouldn’t be in the game if I’m coaching that team that long. I’m thinking about the next game. I’m not thinking about the 30 points. She’s a good shooter. She puts up a lot of shots. We know she has deep range from everything I’ve watched and if you don’t have a hand up, she can pull it.”

For the Defenders to even reach the playoffs is another story in itself. The team began the season with 11 straight losses, then won eight of the next 10 games before ending the season on a six-game losing streak. At one point, the Defenders were 3-1 in the Olympic League, but when V.C., Maranatha High and Whittier Christian High all finished at 3-5, a coin flip had to decide the third place representative. On top of that, Leffler assumed the coaching duties the weekend before the season began.

“I didn’t know if we were going to recover at all, to be honest with you,” said Leffler. “We’re 0-11 and I’m thinking do they still want to do it? We kind of had a moment where I was like, ‘look, I’m going to give you everything I have, but I need you to commit too’. We’re behind skill-wise, so I knew that was coming. We did as much skill work as we could that I know of.”

In other girls basketball playoff action, Artesia High’s bid to upset fourth-ranked Heritage High came up short as the Pioneers lost 54-52 last Saturday night in a Division 4AA first round game. The Pioneers, who finished in fourth place in the 605 League, end the season at 13-11.

Cerritos High, tri-champions of the 605 League, knocked off ninth-ranked Hesperia High 57-54 last Saturday night in Division 3AA action and visited Claremont High this past Wednesday night where the Dons came away with a 53-46 victory. Cerritos improved to 18-7 and will host top-ranked Canyon High of Canyon Country on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

Also, in Division 3AA action, Norwalk High fell to second-ranked Hart High 79-24 last Saturday night to end its season at 15-11 while Whitney High (18-5), tri-champions of the 605 League, was eliminated by Riverside Poly High, ranked fifth, 51-41.


Three area teams, two of which were league champions, were bounced out in the first round last Friday. Artesia (5-13-1) lost to Samueli Academy 1-0 in a game decided by penalty kicks (5-4) in Division 7 action while in Division 1 action, Suburban League champion La Mirada lost to Brea Olinda High 2-1 in another game decided by penalty kicks (1-0). The Matadores wrap up their season at 12-3-7 while #8 V.C., the Olympic League champions, were blanked by Torrance High 4-0 in Division 4 action to end the season at 13-5-3.


Artesia, ranked first in Division 4AA, knocked off Muir High 65-45 last Friday night in first round action. The Pioneers then defeated Ridgecrest Burroughs High 47-37 this past Tuesday night on the road to improve to 25-5. The champions of the 605 League will host unranked Oakwood High tonight in the quarterfinals.

In Division 3AA, Cerritos was blasted by second-ranked Chaparral High 77-38 to finish the season at 9-15 while in Division 2A action, #14 La Mirada High defeated Beckman High 95-64, then upset third-ranked Tesoro High 52-50 this past Tuesday to improve to 15-13. The Matadores will host sixth-ranked Calabasas High tonight.


Artesia, the champions of the 605 League and ranked third in Division 5, doubled up Diamond Ranch High 4-2 last Friday in first round action. The Pioneers then defeated Summit High 3-0 this past Tuesday to improve to 20-1-1. Artesia will host La Quinta High in the quarterfinals.

Also coming out of the 605 League is Cerritos, which blanked St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy 2-0 last Friday, then edged Yeshiva University of Los Angeles 2-1 this past Tuesday to improve to 7-8-3. The Dons will travel to top ranked Geffen Academy at UCLA today in Division 7 action.

In Division 2 action, #2 Norwalk, which had a first round bye, was blanked by Salesian High 3-0 this past Tuesday. The Suburban League champions end their season at 14-2-2 while La Mirada, second in the league, was dropped by Paramount High 3-1 last Friday to finish the season at 12-4-2.

In Division 5 action, #4 V.C. defeated Hawthorne High 3-2 last Friday but lost to St. Margaret’s High 1-0 this past Tuesday. The Olympic League champions conclude their season at 16-3-2.