Looking to build on success

It was a successful 2010-11 girls’ basketball season for the four local programs.

While Burroughs High and Bellarmine-Jefferson won championships in their respective leagues, Providence shared a league title and Burbank was able to advance to the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

However, all four of the teams lost their share of talented players from last season, with the Bulldogs taking the lightest hit after graduating three seniors. At Burroughs, the Indians lost nine seniors to graduation, the Guards had two key athletes transfer and the Pioneers lost three significant contributors to graduation, including an All-CIF Southern Section player.

With the season set to begin next week, here is a closer look at how the teams are shaping up.



Last season, the Guards (23-8) won a Santa Cruz League title and advanced to the Division III-A semifinals, losing to Orange Lutheran, 43-40. The team also made it to the second round of the state playoffs. The league crown was the program’s fourth straight.

Gone from that team are guard Leslie Lopez-Wood and forward Johnese Miller, who have transferred.

“Those kids are doing what they have to do and what’s best for them,” Bell-Jeff Coach Jaclyn Johnson said. “But that doesn’t have any affect on what we’re doing here. We don’t think about them and we don’t talk about them.”


Despite the departures, the squad still has its share of returning talent, and despite having only eight players on the roster, Johnson said she expects nothing less than another successful season.

“Being a small team, it’s a great opportunity for everyone who is here to contribute,” said Johnson, a former Bel-Jeff standout who went on to success at the University of Kansas and in the WNBA. “I have a strong group of seniors and I don’t think we’re going to be lacking in experience, we’re just lacking in numbers.”

“We have kids who want to play for Bell-Jeff, and we’re going to get stronger as the season goes on.”

Returning to form the cornerstone of the team is a pair of All-CIF Division III-A first-teamers. Senior guard Rishonda Napier and senior forward Jasmine Smith are the latest in a string of Guards who have won the award the past few seasons.

Earning All-CIF accolades is nothing new for Napier (13.7 points last season) and Smith (12 points). As a freshman, Napier was a first-team selection and Smith earned second-team honors during the 2009-10 campaign as a sophomore. The two were also pivotal members of a Bell-Jeff team that captured CIF Southern Section Division V-A and state Division V championships in 2009.

“Jasmine’s athleticism is something that can’t be overlooked,” Johnson said. “She is going to be a huge part of our spark.”

Also returning are senior forward Kiah Jones, junior guard Tiffany Kho, senior center Marilyn Flynn and senior forward Averie Guzman.

A new edition who Johnson expects big things from is junior forward/center Mariah Bankhead, a transfer Newcomer Karina Moreno, a sophomore guard, could also make an impact.


In the quest to win Bell-Jeff’s fifth-straight league crown, Johnson said she expects tough competition to come from St. Anthony.


The Indians (25-5) are coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history. However, the seniors who led the way for that success have moved on. Burroughs not only won a league title, but set a program record for wins in a season, advanced to the Division II-A quarterfinals, falling to Inglewood, 74-65, and won its first league championship in 32 years.

The biggest loss was the graduation of Lisha Elsenbach. Elsenbach was the league player of the year, an All-CIF selection and the All-Area player of the year. Elsenbach ended up being the leading scorer in the league, averaging 16.9 points on the season and 23 in league. During league play, she scored in double figures in 12 of 14 games.

Another All-CIF player who graduated was Chelsea Rhamdeow (9.8 points).

The only returner who saw significant playing time last season as a starter is junior center Aysia Shellmire. Shellmire was a first-team all-league and All-Area player a year ago, averaging 9.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game.

Indians Coach Vicky Oganyan said she will look to Shellmire to steady the team, especially during the early part of the season.”

“She is obviously an important part of our team,” Oganyan said of Shellmire. “She has experience, she played in the quarterfinal game and she played on club teams, so she has more experience than the other kids. But in general, our motto this year is to build it and kind of just put the pieces together.”


Also returning are senior guards Nicole Williams and Kacee Cartee, junior guard Bilee Trotta and senior guard Gabriella Pineiro, who saw time off the bench last season.

“We look for Gaby to be one of our leaders,” Oganyan said.

A freshman who will likely be thrust into the starting lineup is guard Delaney Nicol. Another freshman who Oganyan has high hopes for is forward Davina Del Castillo, who will also probably start.

Sophomore guard Sydney Ortega, sophomore center Paula Galicia and senior guard April Harris, up from the junior varsity team, should also contribute.

“We have some young kids, but they work really hard for us,” Oganyan said. “There are a couple of freshmen who have a lot of potential. We know they will probably make some mistakes and it’s going to take some time with them.”

Oganyan said she expects a tough battle in league.

“From what I’ve heard, Muir is supposed to be really good — better than last year,” she said. “And Burbank has a lot of returners and looks pretty good, [Crescenta Valley] has a good player and Pasadena has some good players. It should definitely be tough.”


The Pioneers (20-7) have five returners from a team that shared the Liberty League crown last season with Holy Martyrs.

The biggest loss to graduation was standout Rita Khatchadourian. Along with scoring 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. For her efforts, Khatchadourian was named to the All-CIF Southern Section Division V-AA second team, was selected as the co-Liberty League Player of the Year with Shooshan Zargaryan of Holy Martyrs and was an All-Area second-team pick.

“It’s hard to replace a player like Rita,” Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. “She did a lot for us,”

Providence does get back three returners from a season ago: senior guard Catherine Saint and junior forwards Bea Benedicto and Janel Adraneda.

“All three are important players for us,” Bencze said. “We will rely on all three of them to help us out. We lost basically our entire backcourt from last year. Because of the experience, we expect Janel, Bea and Catherine to be even better than they were last season.”

Bencze said he plans to play Benedicto in the post and take advantage of her strength.

“She is really going to be the focal point of our offense,” he said. “Teams are going to gear up to stop her. If they leave her one on one in the post we’ll give her the ball every time.”

Joining the team is freshman Katia Dabbaghian, niece of Barry Dabbaghian, who holds the Providence boys’ career scoring record.

Another player who Bencze said should also contribute is junior guard Nicole Mungues.

In league, Bencze said his team should be the favorite.

“I think the next best team in league might be Glendale Academy,” he said. “They should have a lot of talent.”


The Bulldogs (13-14) finished in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Pacific League last season and earned a playoff berth via a coin flip.

Burbank endured its share of struggles last season, including some key players going down with injuries. Unfortunately for the group, a few athletes are nursing injuries going into this season.

The good news for the Bulldogs is they lost only three players to graduation, however, all three contributed significant minutes a year ago.

“That really helps us having that many returners from last season,” Burbank Coach Bruce Breeden said. “It gives some experience”

Likely getting starting nods are returners Sylvia Granados, a senior guard, and junior forward Jamie Gonzalez.

“Sylvia came in and helped us last year when our starting guard went down with an injury,” Breeden said. “I feel real comfortable with her at the point. And Jamie will start at the 2 and she really looks good. She’s a shooter and she can bring it.”

Starting at the post is junior returner Courtney Seidler, who is coming back from an eye injury, junior Aja Locke will start as another guard and senior forward Damarie Gonzalez will be a forward.

Senior guard Irene Pashapour, another returner, is sidelined after suffering a knee injury.

“We are hoping to have some good outside shooters,” Breeden said. “We have some girls who can light it up and on any given night we have two or three players who could put up big numbers.”

Also returning is junior Lysette Perez, who is trying to overcome a shoulder injury.

A newcomer who Breeden said could make a possible impact is sophomore forward Ashley Linda.

“I’m really excited about this year,” Breeden said. “I think our preseason schedule is one of the toughest and hopefully that helps us. If we can put it all together, I believe we’re be successful.”

Like Oganyan, Breeden said he expects Muir to field a talented team in the Pacific League.