BURBANK — It's a good local representation when three of the four area high school girls' basketball programs have players who are honored with All-CIF Southern Section awards.
That is the case this season, as athletes from Bellarmine-Jefferson, Burroughs and Providence have won the coveted accolade. Joining Bell-Jeff's Rishonda Napier and Jasmine Smith are Indians Lisha Elsenbach and Chelsea Rhamdeow, along with the Pioneers' Rita Khatchadourian.
The three schools also had something else in common this past season: league championships. While the Indians captured a title in the Pacific League — their first in 33 years — the Guards notched their fourth straight Santa Cruz League crown and Providence won a share of the Liberty League championship, their second in as many years.
Leading the way in the All-CIF selections was Bell-Jeff, which landed two players on the Division III-A first team. Juniors Napier and Smith are the latest in a string of Guards who have won the award the past few seasons.
"Both of those players were very important in helping us have a successful season," Bell-Jeff Coach Jaclyn Johnson said of Napier and Smith. "Rishonda was our point guard and she really helped control things for us. Jasmine was our physical player in the middle, and she really plays bigger than she is."
Earning All-CIF accolades is nothing new for Napier (13.7 points this season) and Smith (12 points). As a freshman, Napier was a first-team selection and Smith earned second-team honors last season as a sophomore.
The two were also pivotal members of the Bell-Jeff team that captured CIF Division VA and state Division V championships in 2009.
This past season, the Guards (23-8) advanced to the Division III-A semifinals, losing to Orange Lutheran, 43-40. The team also advanced to the second round of the state playoffs.
Elsenbach, a senior, who was named to the Division II-A first team, was a big reason why the Indians not only won a league title, but set a program record for wins in a season, as the squad went 25-5.
Burroughs also advanced to the Division II-A quarterfinals, falling to Inglewood, 74-65.
The senior ended up being the leading scorer in the league, and emerged as a quiet, but instrumental leader for the Indians.
Elsenbach's contributions earned her the Pacific League Player of the Year honor.
She averaged 16.9 points on the season and 23 in league. During league play she scored in double figures in 12 of 14 games. In addition, Elsenbach averaged 8.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals a game. She also set a school record for free throws made in a season with 166.
"I think the way Lisha played all season, and not just in the playoffs, she was up there with the best players in the division," Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan said. "Her numbers reflect that. And in a lot of games opposing coaches would come up to us and tell us how impressed they were with her play."
Rhamdeow, a senior, was a Division II-A second-team pick. Along with averaging 9.8 points (second-best on the team), she also averaged 4.2 rebounds, two assists and 1.8 steals.
"When Lisha didn't have a good game, it was usually Chelsea who was able to step up for us," Oganyan said. "She led us against Inglewood with 22 points."
There was little doubt how important a player Khatchadourian, a senior, was for the Pioneers this season.
"Along with being a great player with very good skills, Rita is one of the toughest players I have ever had," said Providence Coach Andrew Bencze "She wasn't only a reliable scorer for us but she was such an important player because of her defense."
Khatchadourian, who made the Division V-AA second team, was also rewarded in the all-league selections, as she was named co-Liberty League Player of the Year with Shooshan Zargaryan of Holy Martyrs. The Pioneers and Armens shared the league crown.
Along with averaging 12.3 points a game, Khatchadourian also averaged four rebounds, 2.9 steals and 1.4 assists. In addition, she averaged double figures in scoring in 20 of the Pioneers' 27 games.
Providence (20-7) fell in the first round of the playoffs to St. Bonaventure, 66-44.