Faith Boulanger of Burroughs High and Jyah LoVett of Providence were two of the most decorated local girls’ basketball players during the 2018-19 season.
Both were driving forces on their respective teams, as the two earned all-league honors and were rewarded with All-CIF Southern Section accolades.
Fortunately for the Indians, Boulanger returns this season for her junior campaign. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, LoVett, after a wildly success freshman season a year ago, is no longer at the school and will not play for the program.
Burroughs and Providence look to have their share of talent in hopes of vying for league championships and a return to the playoffs.
Burbank also lost one of its key players from last season, junior Jaya Flowers, who advanced to state competition in track and field for the Bulldogs in 2019.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
The Indians are coming off a season in which they went 21-8 and 10-4 in the Pacific League to finish in a three-way tie for second place with Pasadena and Crescenta Valley. Arcadia won the league title.
In the CIF Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs, Burroughs lost in the first round to Walnut, 43-38.
“The returners we have from last year’s team are good and they’re going to help us a lot because they’ve been there before and they have experience,” Burroughs coach Vicky Oganyan said. “But we also have a lot of newcomers and they are still learning.
“I would say that we don’t have as much depth as we did last year, in terms of experience. We have seven returners and one of them [senior A’sia Morales] maybe will play in January because she tore her ACL in the summer.”
Boulanger looks to be the cornerstone of the Burroughs group. Last season, she earned Division II-AA second-team recognition. She averaged 15 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 1.9 steals and 1.5 assists a game.
Also returning is senior Sophie Hawkins, along with juniors Dyani Del Castillo, Kayla Wrobel, Sydney Martin and sophomore Noor Fahs.
Two newcomers who could make an instant impact for the Indians are freshmen Isabella Roderick and Ivana Razov.
“In terms of expectations, we’ll have to see,” Oganyan said. “We have a good balanced group in terms of returners, some good leaders, and the newcomers up from the JV to varsity they are just going to have to kind of get used to the level and the speed in trying to figure it out.
“But really a key for us is if we can stay healthy. If we can stay healthy, especially with our returners, we should be good. “
In league, Oganyan said she expects a tough battle.
“Our league is just tough every year because there are good coaches in the league and they always have good teams,” she said. “A lot a games I think are going to be toss-ups.”
The Pioneers are likely going to have to find a way to make up for the scoring load that LoVett carried last season, when she earned Division IV-AA first-team honors after averaging an impressive 20.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and four steals a game.
Providence also graduated its second-leading scorer, Ariel Gordillo, an All-CIF second-teamer who averaged 12.4 points four rebounds and 2.9 steals a game.
“Our two top scorers from last year, Jyah and Ariel, are not back, so we’re just going to have to find other players to step up,” Providence coach Andrew Bencze said.
Last season, the Pioneers had a 16-3 record and placed third (7-5) in their inaugural season in the Prep League.
In the playoffs, Providence earned a 62-41 win against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in the first round before succumbing to Ramona, 37-30, in the second round.
“This is one of the most improved teams that I’ve had, from the beginning of the summer until now,” Bencze said. “As a program we just look a lot better then we did a few months ago. There has been a lot of individual growth, and that helps.
“It’s been nice. It’s really a good group and they have been really working hard and the great thing is that they want to be good; so it’s exciting.”
The Pioneers do have a group of returning players, highlighted by the sister duo of senior Sydney and sophomore Audrey Sayoc. Other returners are sophomore Ava Tibbs, junior Katelyn Alvarado and seniors Haley Laca and Nareh Agazaryan, who is recovering from an ACL injury.
“In league this year, I feel good,” Bencze said. “Last year was kind of introducing ourselves to the league and getting to know the teams and now I feel we are going to be a little more comfortable. We love the competitiveness of the league and nothing is given to you in this league, you have to earn it.
“Flintridge Prep is the returning champ and they haven’t lost a league game in I can’t even remember how long, so they have to be the front-runner.”
The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they just missed earning an at-large playoff berth after going 15-13 and placing fifth in the Pacific League at 6-8.
Jett del Mundo takes over the full-time coaching duties for Burbank and he has been pleased with his team’s progression.
“I look at last year as a transitional year, going through the changes and having the team we had last year,” del Mundo said. “This year, we’re rather young. Although we have five seniors on the team, I still say that we’re young this year because we only bring back one starting returner.
“So we will be starting four new players on the floor for the most part, so we will have to see how those new players will be able to adjust. Some of the players we do have back from last year, a lot of them didn’t see a lot of playing time last season.”
With Flowers choosing to concentrate on her future in track and field, the key returning starter for the Bulldogs will be senior Brianna Castro.
Also returning are juniors Kim Pimentel and Erika Montoya. Other key players could be sophomore Tabitha Cruz and senior Khyla Lipscomb. A freshmen who could make a difference is Karen Casillas.
“Bri is going to do her thing on the court and Kim is our captain, so I expect a lot of leadership from her,” del Mundo said. “Bri is going to open the game up for us.”
“This team has grown up a lot during the offseason, so I’m interested to see what we’ve got this season. This is a very coachable group.”
Del Mundo said he fully expects his team to earn a spot in the playoffs this season.
“In our league, there are some shifts and I know there has been some transfers and changes and what not,” he said. “But it will still be the same league it has been in recent years. It will still be a challenge one through five one through six.
“We won 15 games and one team got selected ahead of us for the playoffs and we didn’t make it. So this year we have to make sure we bring it every game because in trying to make the playoffs, every game is important.”