One longstanding team will be missing from the area girls’ basketball landscape this season — and likely forever.
After winning a CIF Southern Section Division V-A championship and advancing to the the Southern California Regional final during the 2016-17 season, the Bellarmine-Jefferson High will not field a team this season.
Having already lost its coach, Claudia Villa, and one All-CIF player to transfer, it was announced in October that Bell-Jeff would be closing after the 2017-18 school year. Following that news, three other All-CIF players transferred.
That left the program with an insufficient amount of players to field a team, said Bell-Jeff Athletic Director Fred Martinez.
The other four local teams, Burroughs, Burbank, Providence and Lycee International of Los Angeles, have been hard at work preparing to the upcoming season.
Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up.
The Indians finished 17-12 and 8-4 in the Pacific League to tie for second place, snapping their string of four straight titles. In the Division I-AA playoffs, Burroughs lost in the first round to Orange Lutheran, 38-22.
Burroughs lost six seniors to graduation, including its leading scorer, Kamryn Cardenaz.
“The girls have been working hard and they are committed, but it’s still a younger group right now,” Burroughs coach Vicky Oganyan said. “We have two seniors, but one of those seniors is coming up from the [junior varsity] team, so we are very young.
“Although we are young, the girls are really zoned in on learning new stuff and really coming up to speed. They are going to make their young mistakes, but hopefully they will grow as a team.”
The returning senior is Marin Grote, who averaged 12.1 rebounds, 9.4 points, 4.6 blocks, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals a game last season to earn all-league honors.
Other key returners are junior Ariana Farias and sophomore A’sia Morales. Newcomers who could make an impact are Faith Boulanger, Dyani Del Castillo and Kayla Wrobel.
With five freshmen on the team, Oganyan said two or possibly three could be starters.
“We talk a lot about defense and that defense is going to help us win,” Oganyan said. “Even when I had some of my better scoring teams, it all came down to defense. So defense is always our No. 1 key.”
Oganyan said she expects a lot of close games in the Pacific League and the championship appears to be up for grabs.
The Bulldogs (14-15, 5-7 in the Pacific League for fifth place) missed the CIF playoffs last season.
If Burbank is to get back to the postseason, coach John Wells said he expects junior Osanna Tirityan to lead the way. Last season, Tirityan averaged 16.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 2.3 assists per game to earn All-CIF Division II-A second-team honors.
“I think we lost a total of nine seniors to graduation, so we are going to be very young,” Wells said. “I really return just two players from last year’s team.
“One of those returners is Osanna, who is probably the best player in the league. We will rely on her a great deal this season. She is one of our captains and she has taken more of a leadership role this year, working with a lot of the younger players.”
The other returner is senior Sophia Jimenez.
Expected to contribute are junior Sophia Aslanyan, sophomore Brianna Castro, junior Emily Monterey, junior Jasmine Chavez and freshmen Jayla Flowers and Rukhshana Payind.
“In our league this year, the two teams that I think should be up there are Pasadena, who returns most of their team, and Arcadia, who I don’t think played up to their ability last year,” Wells said. “I really think again it’s going to be a team with two or three losses that wins league.”
The Pioneers (15-12, 7-3 in the Liberty League for second place) failed to win the league title for the first time in eight seasons in 2016-17. Providence was defeated in the first round of the IV-A playoffs by Santa Ana, 52-50.
Providence graduated seven seniors but has a solid core of returning players.
“Yes, losing seven seniors is big,” Providence coach Andrew Bencze said. “But at the same time, the five kids who are returning are players who played a lot of minutes for us last season.
“We also have some newcomers who are really going to help us out, so I think that is going to make for a very good team this year. We are young, but we are going to have some talent.”
The Pioneers have one returning all-league player in junior Ariel Gordillo (9.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 1.9 assists a game). Also returning are seniors Giselle Camonayan, Sarah Cox and Francesca Maravilla, along with junior Keara Garcia.
A newcomer who Bencze said could see playing time is freshman Melissa Zozulenko.
“In our league this season, I think Archer and Holy Martyrs are going to be our toughest competition,” Bencze said. “But you also can’t sleep on the other teams in league.
“I fully expect us to compete and bring back that league title.”
In their first season of eligibility, the Lions (9-3, second in International League) qualified for the playoffs for the first time, losing in the first round of the Division VI tournament to Sacred Heart of Jesus, 60-30.
“Having placed second in [league] last year was a huge accomplishment for our team and school,” LILA coach Marilyn Dubon said. “We lost our key point guard to graduation. ...It’s been a journey for us as a team, but everyone who is back, along with our new additions, will be key to our success this year. We are aiming high.”
Players who are expected to step up for the Lions are junior Alexa Infante and senior Grace Edler Von Graeve.
“Alexa is up for the challenge of leading our team,” Dubon said. “Grace will be cleaning up under the boards for us. She has improved tremendously in a short period of time and she should be a solid force under the basket.”