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Girls' Basketball Preview: Veteran coaches lead squads with share of talent

Girls' Basketball Preview: Veteran coaches lead squads with share of talent
Faith Boulanger is a key returner this season for the Burroughs High girls' basketball team. (File Photo)

There is an impressive similarity the local girls’ basketball teams share for the 2018-19 season.

All three programs, Burroughs, Burbank and Providence, will be headed by veteran coaches with a wealth of experience and who have enjoyed their share of success over the years.

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At Burbank, Bruce Breeden returns to take over for John Wells, who guided the Bulldogs for two seasons. Breeden previously coached the team for 11 seasons, stepping aside in 2016 to concentrate on his co-athletic director duties. His teams qualified for the playoffs eight times during his tenure.

Vicky Oganyan, last season’s All-Area Coach of the Year, picks up where she left off last season at Burroughs after capturing a piece of the Pacific League championship.

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Andrew Bencze at Providence will look to continue the success of a year ago when the Pioneers won the title in their last season in the Liberty League before departing for the Prep League. Providence also advanced to the CIF Southern Section semifinals and took part in the state playoffs.

Here is a closer look at the teams.

PROVIDENCE

Behind the play of Giselle Camonayan and freshman Melissa Zozulenko, the Pioneers enjoyed a banner season during the 2017-18 campaign.

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The Pioneers went 9-1 in the Liberty League and notched the program's eighth crown in nine seasons — all under Bencze. In the playoffs, Providence (22-9) advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A semifinals for the first time since 2013 and earned a spot in the CIF State playoffs for the third time in program history.

However, Camonayan graduated and Zozulenko transferred to Harvard-Westlake.

“The thing I love about coaching high school sports is that it seems like every year it’s a new challenge,” Bencze said. “It’s always a challenge to take the kids who come into your school and make them into a great squad. I just love that part of it.

“This year is no different. We have a pair of seniors who are going to lead us and a pair of freshmen who are really going to play a lot. So, we’ve got that kind of older-younger vibe to our team.”

The Pioneers should have a talent in freshman Jaya LoVett, younger sister of former All-CIF Player of the Year and St. John’s University player Marcus LoVett Jr. Bencze says that Jaya is “Hands down the best player I’ve coached,” and she has already drawn interest from college programs.

Returning to provide leadership for the Pioneers is four-year senior Ariel Gordillo along with fellow senior Keara Garcia.

Joining LoVett is another freshmen in Audrey Sayoc, as pair Bencze said will be in the starting lineup.

“If you look at Jaya, Audrey and Ariel as the starting backcourt, it’s pretty good,” Bencze said. “Those are three very, very good guards who can all score. And for a small-school team, that’s what you want.”

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Also seeing playing time will be juniors Sydney Sayoc and Nareh Agazaryan and sophomores Katelyn Alvarado and Katie Karroum.

Switching to the Prep league, Providence will take on the likes of defending champion Flintridge Prep, Chadwick, Pasadena Poly, Westridge, Mayfield, Rio Hondo Prep and Firebaugh.

“We ended the Liberty League winning the last eight of nine titles, and we will approach the Prep League the same way,” Bencze said. “We plan on competing for league championship — we want to win league.

“Our goals are the exact same, no matter what league that we’re playing in. We look at it as every game in league is important.”

BURROUGHS

The Indians are hoping to stay healthy this season.

“We had so many injuries in the summer that we never really played with our full team, but it was good in a way because it gave some other players a chance to get some experience,” Oganyan said.

“But we’re good now and we’re all healthy and hopefully that’s the way it will stay for the season. We really return almost all of our team expect for one player and that’s really helpful. Kids have been here for a few years and they know what to expect. Even the younger players have been good at picking up concepts.”

The Indians were led by a freshman last season, Faith Boulanger, who returns.

Boulanger was named to the All-CIF Division II-AA second team as well as earning All-Area and All-Pacific League first-team honors. She finished with a team-high 12.7 points per contest, with 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

The Indians did lose a big presence in Marin Grote (9.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game), who graduated and is playing volleyball at the University of Washington.

Burroughs went 22-8 and 11-3 in the Pacific League for a share of the title. In the playoffs, the Indians opened with a win against Buena and fell in the second round to JSerra Catholic.

Returning to bolster the lineup are all-league players, sophomores Kayla Wrobel (5.4 points, 5.2 rebounds) and Dyani Del Castillo (5.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, one steal). Also returning for Burroughs are seniors Ariana Farias, Camryn Lotka and Nicole Rumfola, along with junior A’sia Morales.

“All of the three freshmen who started last year, Faith, Kayla and Dyani, have improved since last year,” Oganyan said. “They are just hard workers and they have that desire to get better and they are into basketball, which is awesome.

“But along with those three, really the rest of the team has improved as well … It’s nice to see that improvement.”

New to the team is freshman Noor Fahs, who Oganyan has high hopes for.

“I think this year our league is going to be really tough,” Oganyan said. “Across the board there is talent with a lot of teams and there is very good coaching, so it’s going to be hard.

BURBANK

The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they went 10-18 and 5-9 in league to finish sixth. The Bulldogs failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season.

“We have really had a good bye-in for what we want to accomplish since I can back,” said Breeden, whose Bulldogs teams went 164-144 and 80-70 in league during his previous tenure. “The girls have responded really, really well.

“I would say that we’re a pretty deep team this year, led by Osanna [Tirityan] and Sofia [Aslanya], who are our two key seniors. A few players have really made great strides since we have taken over and their games have really gone to the next level … so we’re pretty excited.”

Burbank returns a consistent force in Tirityan. Along with earning first-team All-Area and all-league accolades last season, Tirityan led the league in scoring, according to maxpreps.com, averaging 16.1 points to go along with 10.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.5 steals a game.

The Bulldogs also return a pair of all-league players in sophomore Jayla Flowers (6.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals) and Aslanyan (9.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks).

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Other key returners for Burbank are junior Brianna Castro and sophomores Erica Montoya, Rukshana Payind and Kim Pieintel.

A newcomer who could make an impact is 6-foot-1 freshman Tabitha Cruz.

“We have really tried to change the mentality here, and it’s a battle every day,” Breeden said. “Our goal is to get back to the playoffs and do some damage when we get there. I don’t know all of what to expect this season, but I do expect for us to make the playoffs.

“League is going to be tough. But I think there are a few teams in league that are going to be worried about Burbank this season.”

Lycee International of Los Angeles will not field a team this season because of low turnout.

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