Erik BoalSince its opening in 1944, Bellarmine-Jefferson...

Erik Boal

Since its opening in 1944, Bellarmine-Jefferson High School has

competed in only a handful of California Interscholastic Federation

championship events.


It wasn’t until 1997 that the Guards won their first -- and only

-- Southern Section title, posting a 47-45 victory against Cerritos

Valley Christian in the Division IVA girls’ basketball final.

After a six-year hiatus, Bell-Jeff returns today to the scene of


its crowning athletic achievement, the Long Beach Pyramid.

The Guards’ girls’ basketball team (23-4) will try to double its

inventory of championship plaques at 9:30 a.m., when it meets

Westlake Village Oaks Christian (21-6) for the Division IVA title.

“It’s a great challenge for us, but that’s the way it should be,”

said Bell-Jeff Athletic Director and third-year coach Bryan Camacho,

whose previous championship-game experience includes a victory in the

1998 Division IIIA final as an assistant coach with the West Hills


Chaminade boys’ team.

Today’s event marks the fifth time in school history that a

Bell-Jeff team has competed in a basketball final. If the team wins

today, it will likely play Tuesday in Burbank in the southern region

of the Division IV state playoffs.

Prior to their victory in 1997 -- under the direction of veteran

coach Jim Couch -- the Guards lost to Cerritos Valley Christian,

66-52, in the 1993 Division IVA final.


Before those two appearances, the Bell-Jeff boys’ basketball team

had two opportunities to win a division title, but fell short in 1966

and 1988, losing in the Division 1-A final to L.A. Lutheran and

Beaumont, respectively.

"[To play in the final] is better than great, but in terms of

reaching our goal, we’re not quite there yet,” said senior guard

Jennae Peoples, who helped Bell-Jeff reach the championship game by

tallying 15 points and 14 rebounds in the team’s 57-51 semifinal win

against L.A. Windward on March 1.

“This is a stepping stone, but it’s only a stepping stone. We’re

still a half-step away,” she said.

The Guards’ only other brush with championship fever came in 1991,

when the school’s boys’ cross-country team was runner-up to Ojai

Nordhoff in Division IV and state.