Since its opening in 1944, Bellarmine-Jefferson High School has
competed in only a handful of California Interscholastic Federation
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
"[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.