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Progress leads La Cañada basketball’s Williams to MVP

For La Cañada High girls’ basketball player Zoe Williams, the last three seasons have revolved around progress.

The senior center has seen her time, numbers and productivity increase since her sophomore year.

Over that stretch, the Rio Hondo League has taken notice of the 6-foot-1 Williams, who was a league second-team pick as a sophomore and a first-team selection as a junior.

As as senior, the league bestowed Williams with its highest honor as she was named the league’s most valuable player.

Williams won the award a season after former teammate and center Amber Graves was named MVP.

“I want to say thank you to the coaches that I’ve worked with this season and before and to the coaches in the league who recognized me,” Williams said. “I couldn’t be winning this without my parents and my family, but also without my teammates.”

This past season, Williams averaged a team-best 12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, while she also averaged 1.4 steals.

“I think the award is well-deserved,” La Cañada Coach Sarah Beattie said. “She’s an incredibly hard worker who is dedicated to the game and she just imposed her will at both ends of the court throughout the league season, defensively and offensively. We played nine league games and she had six double-doubles out of the nine games.”

La Cañada finished the season with a 23-6 record that included a dominant 9-0 run through the Rio Hondo League with double-digit victories in each of those contests.

A season after the Spartans advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III-A championship game, La Cañada transitioned up to Division I-A. The move cut down the Spartans’ playoff run this postseason as they advanced to the second round.

“This season my teammates expected me to be a consistent and strong player and I think I was,” Williams said. “I think I’ve improved over the last couple of years and the biggest thing for me now is just my focus. I wanted to be focused on the next 32 minutes of action, no matter who we played.”

La Cañada merited five additional all-league selections, including a first-team honor for senior guard Alexi Nazarian.

The selection is the second straight first-team honor for Nazarian.

This past season, Nazarian averaged 7.5 points per game, second-best on the team, while she tallied 2.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals per contest. Nazarian also led her squad with 32 three-pointers.

“Lexi played the point guard position last year, but this year it took on a whole new meaning for her,” Beattie said. “I think she was that general on the floor, the person who was going to lead that team and run our offense. She also quietly sustained us through every game. She’s not a flashy player, but she gets the job done.”

Junior guard Tess Oakley-Stilson and sophomore guard Brooke Yasuda were both named to the second team.

Oakley-Stilson averaged five points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game off the bench for Beattie, while Yasuda totaled 6.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.

La Cañada senior guards Kristina Kurdoghlian (6.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game) and Stephanie Musso (2.9 points per game) were chosen as league honorable mentions.

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