Quiet confidence

Shelley Gupilan doesn’t fist pump after a key play or pop her jersey when she makes a big basket.

She never yells at teammates or taunts opponents.

She also never hangs her head or sulks when she makes a mistake.

Gupilan’s lack of emotion on the basketball court doesn’t mean she’s complacent when it comes to her dedication to the game — or her teammates.

While many players wear their emotions on their sleave, the Bellarmine-Jefferson High senior keeps hers tucked neatly inside her Guards jersey. That way, especially in tense situations, Gupilan is able to control her emotions, not let them control her.

“I do get mad sometimes,” Gupilan said. “But I just don’t show it a lot. I just want to go out and play, and that’s the way I deal with it.”

Bell-Jeff Coach Bryan Camacho said Gupilan’s low-keyed demeanor on the court has benefited her game, and proved to be a calming force for her teammates.

“Shelley has what we call a quiet confidence,” Camacho said. “She is just cool as ice on the court, and that has been to her advantage.

“The way that she acts on the court has been so beneficial to our team. In tough situations, the players see that Shelley isn’t rattled and she isn’t worried, and that kind of calms them down.”

It is that even-tempered style that allowed Gupilan to thrive during the 2008-09 season.

With her leading the way, Bell-Jeff captured the CIF Southern Section Division V-A championship, just the second title in any sport in the 65-year history of the school.

She also stepped up her game in the state playoffs, guiding the Guards to their first California title. It was the first state crown for any girls’ team in the area.

It is because of her outstanding contributions that Gupilan has been named the 2009 All-Area Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun.

It is the second straight year that Gupilan has won the honor.

Despite her subdued demeanor, Gupilan has a fiery love for the game and a burning desire to do whatever she can to help her team succeed.

Whether it was overcoming injuries, bringing her squad back from a deficit or keeping her teammates together as a unit, Gupilan faced every situation with a determination that could not be quashed.

A prime example of that competitive drive occurred in a regional semifinal game of the CIF State Basketball Division V Championships against Fresno Christian.

Bell-Jeff lost the services of Gupilan in the final minute of the second quarter when an opposing player delivered a crushing blow to her lower back.

The hit aggravated an injury Gupilan suffered during the Southern Section playoffs when she landed hard on the court.

With tears in her eyes and writhing in intense pain, Gupilan was taken off the court and became physically ill on the Guards’ sideline. Unable to walk, Gupilan was rolled in a chair to a coaching office adjacent to the court.

“That was the worst pain in the world,” Gupilan said. “I was gagging it hurt so much. I was grabbing my dad because it hurt so much and he asked if I wanted to go to the emergency room.

“When I was sitting with my dad people were telling me, ‘The team needs you out there. You have to get better to help them.’ I just didn’t want the season to end that way. So, I told myself that I need to get back into the game.”

She returned to the game in the third quarter and scored 16 points in the contest to help lead Bell-Jeff to a 66-59 win.

Camacho said Gupilan’s ability to come back and play in that game was a testament to the player’s dedication to her teammates.

“Shelley doesn’t show emotion, she doesn’t cry and the tears don’t come,” Camacho said. “So, when she does have tears, you know she is going through something very painful.

“But she will just do whatever it takes to help her team. That’s just the kind of player, and person, she is. She understood how valuable she was to her team, and her love for the team gave her the strength to come back.”

There was no doubt that Gupilan was the team’s go-to player all season. She proved to be a versatile contributor who could muscle for points and rebounds in the paint as well as hit the three-pointer. She was also a solid defender.

Gupilan was named the Santa Cruz League Player of the year in a season in which she averaged 18.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.8 steals a game.

She also came up big in the postseason, averaging 20.2 points a game.

For her exploits, she was named the Southern Section Division V-A Player of the Year.

“She is just a special player, and a very special talent,” Camacho said. “There is no way we accomplish what we did without her. No way.”

Gupilan stepped up big in the most important games.

She tallied 18 points in a 61-31 trouncing of Santa Clara in the Southern Section championship to give the program its first title in 12 years.

In the state title game she poured in 22 points in a 55-47 win against Pinewood.

“Winning state was just so incredible,” said Gupilan, whose team finished 24-1. “It was something we worked so hard to get.”

With that season just a memory now, Gupilan is focusing on playing at the Division I college level and is weighing several offers.

She just wants to keep playing basketball — no matter where she might end up.

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