Bellarmine-Jefferson basketball's Balmy is division player of the year

Throughout the nonleague season, into league play and throughout the CIF Southern Section and state playoff tournaments, Cosette Balmy proved to be a valuable asset for the Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' basketball team.

A junior point guard, Balmy was the Guards' playmaker, court general and a force on both the offense and defensive ends. She helped lead the team to a league title, a Southern Section championship and a berth in the Southern California Regional final.

Balmy was rewarded for her contributions when the CIF Southern Section office released its All-CIF first teams across 12 divisions. Balmy garnered the top award in Division V-A, as she was named the player of the year.

Earning spots on the first team were Bell-Jeff juniors Claire Borot and Caitlyn Cough, while sophomore Dalila Rincan was a second-team selection. In addition, Guards Coach Claudia Villa was named the division's coach of the year.

Despite not making the playoffs, Burbank sophomore Osanna Tirityan was a second-team selection in Division II-A.

"It is just great that we are able to get that kind of recognition," Villa said. "I told the girls because we made such a long run in the playoffs that we really didn't get a chance to look back and see what you've done, because you're always focusing on the next game and then the next game.

"But for the CIF to acknowledge them the way that they have really means so much and it's nice recognition for the kind of season that they had."

Balmy was a focal point on a team that went 23-4 and captured the Santa Fe League title with a 10-0 record.

"The thing about Cosette is that we were waiting for her to really step up and take control this season and she did just that," Villa said. "The way she plays and the way she is just so tough on defense and the way she attacks the basket, she sometimes comes off as being a mean person. But off the court she is just the sweetest thing ever.

"She is just such an overall good player and she really helped make us what we were this season as a team. ... For her to get player of the year is just amazing and she really deserves it."

For Borot, it is her second straight All-CIF honor, along with Balmy and Rincan.

"She is a threat all over the floor," Villa said of Borot. "She is so good around the basket and she is such a good shot blocker, but she can also shoot from the outside. You know she really doesn't want to be a post player, but she played that position because we needed someone there. To do that for us tells you what an unselfish player she is."

Couch came into the basketball campaign after a successful cross-country season in which she won a league individual title and the Guards placed first in the Santa Fe League before advancing to the state meet. Borot, Balmy and Rincan were also members of that successful cross-country squad.

"Caitlyn really came up big for us with her defense," Villa said. "You tell her to do anything and she'll do it for the team, no questions asked. She is just such a good defender and you can see that she really makes things tough for the person who she's guarding."

For Rincan, who also played volleyball in the fall, she was one of five returning Bell-Jeff starters on a team that included just one senior.

"She is just so coachable and she will really do anything she has to to be successful," Villa said. "She is just ready to go in every minute of every game and she is just fearless about attacking the basket and taking it inside. You want to see that kid who will do what she has to do to be successful and who has no fear."

Bell-Jeff captured the Southern Section Division V-A championship, defeating Chadwick, 56-39. The Guards went deep into the Division V CIF State Championships, losing in the SoCal regional Saturday against Rolling Hills Prep, 68-56.

Tirityan was a force for a Burbank team that went 14-15 and 5-7 in the Pacific League for fifth place and missed the playoffs.

"Even though we didn't make the playoffs, as a team we were ranked among the top 10 in our division in CIF for a lot of the season and we went 5-1 against teams in our division," Burbank Coach John Wells. "So I think that had a lot to do with her making it.

"She has had two good years for us and we are expecting more from her next year when she will be stepping into a leadership role for us as a junior."

Tirityan averaged 16.3 points to go along with 9.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 2.3 assists per game.

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Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com

Twitter: @jefftsports

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