They both started the season with No. 1 rankings. Only one ended that way, but nobody can deny it was another successful year for the Morningside and Palos Verdes girls basketball teams.
Morningside, avenging last year’s loss in the state Division I final, beat Fremont of Oakland, 60-50, Saturday night to win its first state championship and cap a 32-1 season.
Palos Verdes was ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section 4-A Division when it was upset by eventual champion Katella of Anaheim, 56-55, in the semifinals of the playoffs. The loss was disheartening, but the Sea Kings finished with a 24-4 record and memories of an outstanding season.
The Times South Bay All-Star Basketball Team reflects the success of Palos Verdes and Morningside, as the area’s finest teams each placed two players on the 10-girl squad.
Center Lisa Leslie and guard JoJo Witherspoon represent Morningside, while twins Heather and Heidi Burge of Palos Verdes earned all-star recognition for the second consecutive year. Leslie also is a repeat selection.
Candice Burnett of Banning is the fourth all-star repeater. Rounding out the team are Laura Collins of North Torrance, Rosa Olloque of West Torrance, Vanessa Vogelsang of Redondo, Neisha Williams of Hawthorne and Lala Lesa of Carson.
Five centers, who averaged more than 20 points per game, dominate the squad. Leslie, the Burges, Collins and Vogelsang made their presence felt in virtually every game.
The all-star back court is headed by Witherspoon, a highly recruited point guard, and includes Burnett, Olloque and Williams. Lesa played forward.
Although just a junior, Leslie improved her status as one of the nation’s most dominant players. The 6-5 center averaged an area-high 26 points, 14.6 rebounds and 6.7 blocked shots per game to lead the Lady Monarchs to their finest season.
And Leslie was at her best in the biggest game of the year. With the state title on the line Saturday, she came through with game highs of 21 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots at the Oakland Coliseum Arena to help Morningside avenge last year’s 53-52 loss to Fremont.
“She should be in college . . . now!” a South Bay coach said of Leslie, one of the nation’s highly recruited players.
A Parade All-American, Leslie was chosen Most Outstanding Player in the Ocean League and Most Valuable Player of the Morningside and Santa Barbara tournaments.
Witherspoon, Morningside’s only senior, was a steadying influence for the Lady Monarchs. The 5-9 point guard kept college scouts interested with her heady court play, averaging 16.8 points and a team-high 10 assists.
After helping the Lady Monarchs to their seventh consecutive league title, Witherspoon was honored as the Ocean League’s Most Valuable Player. She continued to be an asset late in the season during Morningside’s drive to the CIF Southern Section 5-A, regional and state titles.
Witherspoon’s biggest game, at least from a statistical standpoint, came in a league game against South Torrance when she scored a school-record 68 points, the third-highest total in Southern Section history.
The Burges, who signed letters of intent with Virginia, wrapped up their careers with productive seasons. The 6-4 twins dominated nearly every game, leading Palos Verdes to its second straight Bay League title.
Heidi was the more productive, averaging 23.8 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots. Heather, who overcame an illness early in the season, averaged 20.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, four blocked shots and 2.9 steals.
Naturally, they were named Co-Most Valuable Players of the Bay League.
Morningside went 14-0 in the Ocean League to extend its league winning streak to 72 games, third best in Southern Section history, but the Lady Monarchs didn’t have a corner on the league’s outstanding players. Collins, Olloque and Vogelsang distinguished themselves during Ocean play.
Olloque led West Torrance (16-7) to a runner-up spot behind Morningside. The 5-6 senior led South Bay guards in scoring by averaging 19.7 points. She averaged 6.5 assists and 3.5 steals.
Collins, a 5-11 junior, guided North Torrance (16-10) to a third-place finish in the Ocean League and to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section 4-AA playoffs. The Saxons were eliminated by top-seeded Mission Viejo, 60-59, but Collins led all scorers with 19 points.
“She’s the only player in the South Bay who can play with Leslie,” an area coach said of Collins, who averaged 21.7 points and 14.4 rebounds.
Statistically, Redondo’s Vogelsang was one of the most impressive players in the South Bay. The 6-2 senior averaged 22 points and 15 rebounds for the fourth-place Sea Hawks. She was named to the All-Ocean first team.
Hawthorne’s Williams played in the shadows of Palos Verdes and the Burges in the Bay League, but it didn’t detract from an outstanding season. The 5-7 senior guard was an explosive offensive player who parlayed her shooting and rebounding into a 19.2-point scoring average.
“She’s the best perimeter shooter I’ve coached,” said Hawthorne Coach John Wheeler, whose team finished second to Palos Verdes. “She has uncanny moves to the basket and is a nightmare to defend in the open court.”
Williams wasn’t just a scorer, however. She averaged 7.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists, and her leadership was the main reason the Cougars (17-10) strung together seven straight wins before losing to Long Beach Poly, 60-43, in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section 5-AA playoffs.
Williams had a high game of 42 points against Rolling Hills and made the Gahr and Warren all-tournament teams.
The 5-11 Lesa, a strong player near the basket, led Carson (18-4) to the best season in school history. The Colts, who went 0-10 in league play two years ago, won the Pacific League title and posted wins over highly rated Washington and Crenshaw in Southern-Pacific Conference play.
Lesa, a junior, averaged 15 points and 14 rebounds on her way to being named the league MVP. Second-seeded Carson reached the second round of the L.A. City 4-A playoffs before losing to Crenshaw.
Burnett, a 5-6 senior guard who is being recruited by Division I colleges, averaged 13.5 points to help Banning take second behind Carson in the Pacific League. She is a two-time all-league selection and was named to the All-City team last season.
The all-star boys and girls teams, each consisting of 10 members, their coaches and parents will be guests of The Times at 9 a.m. Sunday, April 2, at the annual Times High School Basketball Awards Brunch where all-stars teams from 12 circulation areas will be honored at the Anaheim Hilton. The featured speaker will be George Yardley, a former All-American at Stanford University, who went on to become the first player ever to score more than 2,000 points in an NBA season. The players and the coaches of the year from each area will be announced.
The teams were chosen on the basis of a poll of area coaches, who are asked to fill out ballots nominating their own players and opponents, plus the observations of college scouts and sportswriters. Each player will recieve the traditional Times golden basketball plaque and award certificate. GIRLS PREP TEAM Name: Heather Burge School: Palos Verdes Year: Senior Height: 6-4 Average: 20.3 Name: Heidi Burge School: Palos Verdes Year: Senior Height: 6-4 Average: 23.8 Name: Candice Burnett School: Banning Year: Senior Height: 5-6 Average: 13.5 Name: Laura Collins School: North Torrance Year: Junior Height: 5-11 Average: 21.7 Name: Lala Lesa School: Carson Year: Junior Height: 5-9 Average: 15.0 Name: Lisa Leslie School: Morningside Year: Junior Height: 6-5 Average: 26.0 Name: Rosa Olloque School: West Torrance Year: Senior Height: 5-6 Average: 19.7 Name: Vanessa Vogelsang School: Redondo Year: Senior Height: 6-2 Average: 21.6 Name: Neisha Williams School: Hawthorne Year: Senior Height: 5-7 Average: 19.2 Name: JoJo Witherspoon School: Morningside Year: Senior Height: 5-9 Average: 16.8 SECOND TEAM GIRLS
Name School Height Year Average Alysiah Bond San Pedro 5-5 10 10.7 Janet Davis Morningside 6-3 9 11.0 Kawasci Jackson Leuzinger 5-8 11 15.5 Diane Miyake Carson 5-7 12 15.0 Shasta Paris Narbonne 6-0 11 14.5 Kala Parker Chadwick 5-3 10 19.1 Keisha Scott Inglewood 5-8 11 13.0 Susan Wilhite Palos Verdes 5-6 11 6.8 Erika Williams St. Mary’s 5-8 11 13.2 Monica Wood B. Montgomery 5-11 12 12.0