Bell-Jeff looking to return to CIF final

BURBANK -- All four of the local high school girls’ basketball teams

are dealing with the same dilemma this season.

For Burbank, Burroughs, Bellarmine-Jefferson and Providence, they

are getting used to life without a premier player, as all the schools


lost a major talent to graduation or transfer.

The programs not only lost a high scorer and a team leader,

respectively, but they will be trying to get along without one of the

finest athletes in the team’s history.


Here is a look at how the season is shaping up.


The Guards are coming off one of the most successful seasons ever.

Not only did Bell-Jeff compile a 23-6 record, but the team advanced

to the CIF Southern Section Division IVA championship, losing to

Westlake Village Oaks Christian, 53-44, at the Long Beach Pyramid.

“Our goal this year is to again play well and get to the

championship, and hopefully win it,” said Bell-Jeff Coach Bryan


Camacho, who is in his fourth year.

“I really like this team and I like the way that we play. But we

also know it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get back to where

we were last season.”

The good news for the Guards in their quest for only the school’s

second Southern Section title -- the girls’ basketball team won a

Division IVA championship in 1997 -- is that Oaks Christian has been

moved up and out of the division.


The bad news is that Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart has moved

back down to Division IVA. Two seasons ago, Cantwell won the division

title, beating Van Nuys Montclair Prep and Eshaya Murphy -- now at

USC -- 77-66.

Bell-Jeff is also going to have to deal with a Sunshine League

that should be loaded with talented teams. Last season, the Guards

finished second behind L.A. Marlborough, which went on to capture a

Division IVAA championship.

“Marlborough has to be the favorite in league again this year,”

Camacho said. “They should have some good players, and that will be a

team we will have to contend with.”

Marlborough lost one of its star players to graduation, as former

Burroughs athlete Shaina Zaidi has moved on to UCLA.

The Guards lost an excellent player of their own, Jennae Peoples.

As a senior last season, Peoples won her second straight league most

valuable player award, averaging 18.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 7.2

assists and 4.1 steals a game.

However, even without Peoples, Bell-Jeff has an experienced and

talented squad that boasts four returning starters.

Leading the way is a pair of seniors, 5-foot-8 Kelly Hobbs (10

points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.8 steals) and 5-7 Julie Van Dyke (13.1

points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists) who will be looked upon not only

to step up on offense, but to also provide some leadership.

Also returning is senior Idessa Reyes (5-6) who will play the

off-guard position, and senior post player Andrea Morgan (6-2), who

should give the Guards some muscle in the middle.

“Andrea is going to be a key factor for us,” Camacho said. “She

improved her game tremendously during the summer and we are looking

for her to make a big impact for us this season.”

Players who Camacho said should also contribute are seniors Angie

Coronado (5-10) and Thea Bell (5-10), junior Jessica Campos (5-7) and

sophomores Nikki Taylor (5-10) and Larissa Witcher (5-7).


Of all the local teams, Burroughs probably lost the biggest talent

in Tulyah Gaines. Gaines, who would have been a senior with the

Indians, and who has already signed with University of Notre Dame,

has transferred out of state and is attending a school in Las Vegas.

Last season’s Leader Girls’ Player of the Year and an All-CIF

selection as a junior, Gaines averaged 18.9 points (21.6 in the

Foothill League), 5.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 5.2 a game.

Burroughs Coach Doug Nicol, who is in his 11th year, said his team

will miss Gaines’ services. However, he also said the Indians should

have their share of talent and are looking forward to a successful


“Tulyah was probably the best girls’ player to ever come out of

Burroughs, and the entire city for that matter,” Nicol said. “She

will be missed, there is no doubt about that.

“But we have to get over that. What has become my mantra this

season, and what the players have probably gotten sick of hearing me

say it over and over again is ‘The last time I checked, we have

Burroughs written across our uniforms, not Tulyah Gaines.’

“And that’s no knock on Tulyah, I love Tulyah to death. We just

have to approach our season with a different perspective now.”

The Indians (14-13) learned how to play without Gaines last season

when the guard was sidelined for 11 games with illness and injury.

Nicol will have his share of veteran players, as six return from

the squad that placed fifth in league.

A player expected to provide an offensive spark is senior forward

Janette Galindo (5-10). Galindo should provide her share of points as

well as be a defensive presence for the Indians.

“Janette has really worked hard on her game and you can see the

improvement,” Nicol said. “We will need her to step up and be a


With three years of varsity play under their belts, senior

forward/center Val Rico (5-8) and senior forward Jayde Dennis (5-10)

should give Burroughs some stability.

At the point-guard position, Nicol is putting the ball in the

hands of freshman Britney Morgan. Although Morgan has no high school

experience, Nicol said she has honed her skills playing in

tournaments with her travel-ball team.

In Burroughs’ quest to make it back to the postseason, Nicol said

he has to get consistent play from senior guards Jessica Sandoval

(5-3) and Shannon Davies (5-7), junior guard Sandra Acevedo (5-6),

junior guard/forward Shahaf Tuler (5-8) and senior forward Janel

Byrne (5-8).

In league competition, there is no surprise to Nicol who the top

teams should be.

“Hart and Valencia are going to have very good teams for sure,”

Nicol said. But we always have tough teams in our league, so it’s

nothing new.”


One of the strong points of the Pioneer program over the years has

been its ability as a talented outside shooting team. Providence has

produced some very good long-range scorers who have helped the team

win Liberty League championships and made the squad a regular

participant in the playoffs.

Last season, Providence (20-5) was paced by dynamo Selina Tech,

the league player of the year, who averaged 14 points, six rebounds

and four steals a game and hit 70 three-pointers.

But Tech -- a four-year varsity player -- graduated and ended her

successful hoop career.

“Selina broke just about every scoring and three-point record in

girls’ basketball here at Providence,” Coach Andrew Bencze said. “I

think she had something like 1,190 career points, bettering the

second player who had 620 career points.

“She did so much for us, and we relied on her so much, its is

going to be tough without her.”

The team also lost its second-best player, Natalie Guzman, to

graduation. Guzman averaged 8.6 points a game.

With two of his best shooters gone, Bencze said the Pioneers will

have to adapt to more of an inside game this season.

The person who will lead the inside charge is senior post player

Megan Campbell (6-4), who is joined by sophomore Vanessa Arman (5-11)

and junior Hannah Geralo (5-9).

“I think with those three, we should be pretty good down low,”

Bencze said. “It’s just going to be different for us because we are

going to have to work the ball in a lot to get our points.”

Another returning player who could step up is senior guard Talar

Bouldoukian (5-5), who was second on the team in three-point shooting

last season.

Newcomers who could make in impact are freshman guard Heather

Hansen (5-6) and freshman forward Elizabeth Reuter (5-8), whose

sister, Cathleen, is a former Leader Female Athlete of the Year.

Although the Pioneers finished second last season in league to

L.A. Windward -- which Bell-Jeff defeated in the Division IVA

semifinals -- last year, Bencze said his team should compete for a


“I think we should be good enough to make a run,” he said.

“We also have the goal of making it to the playoffs and winning

more than just one game, which we did last year.


The Bulldogs have a new coach in Paul Kim, who was the junior

varsity coach last season.

Kim inherits a team that lost arguably the best player in the

program’s history to graduation. Christine Kepenekian, a former

Leader Girls’ Player of the Year and four-time All-Foothill League

standout, was one of the most prolific scorers in California last

season, averaging 24.1 points a game to go along with 13.5 rebounds,

five assists and five steals. She also made 64 of 157


Kepenekian, who led her team to the Division IIA playoffs a year

ago -- scoring 28 points in a first-round loss to Ventura Buena,

61-52 -- received a scholarship and is playing for Cal State


“Christine meant a lot to this program for a number of years,” Kim

said. “In that playoff game last year, it was because of her that we

came close to upsetting and beating a very good team.”

Burbank is also dealing with the graduation of Roxy Quintero, who

averaged 10 points, three assists and three steals a game last


Despite the losses, Kim likes the makeup of his team.

“The team is very different from what [former Coach] Ricky

Hawthorne had last year,” he said. “There are only two girls on our

team that were on the team last season.

“So its like we’re starting with a clean slate. It is going to be

a young team.”

The Bulldogs (12-15) will be trying to rebound from a 2002-03

campaign in which they finished sixth in league and made it to the

postseason by posting the required 11 victories.

Kim, who has a small squad of 10 players, has just one senior,

four juniors and five sophomores.

“For us, we have a group of players who are going to be around,

and who we have the opportunity to work with, for a few years,” he


“We have a saying for this year’s team: ‘100 and 100,’ which means

we are going to give 100%, 100% of the time. That is what we are

shooting for this season.

“These girls have been just a pleasure to work with and they have

really worked hard. It is really a great group.”

Instead of naming individuals who he thinks will make an impact

this season, Kim prefers not to single out anyone in particular.

“I think by naming names it undermines the team concept that we

are trying to stress,” Kim said.

In league, Kim said he expects a tough time from the usual


“I saw Valencia during the summer, and they are very athletic,” he

said. “And Hart’s got one of the best players in California (Ashlee

Trebilcock). She’s fun to watch, but not very fun to play against.”