This is the second in a four-part series looking back on the sports accomplishments of the four local high schools during the 2011-12 year. This installment is Bellarmine-Jefferson High:
No other team has been as successful at Bellarmine-Jefferson High over the last two years as the school’s softball squad.
Over that span, the Guards have captured consecutive Santa Cruz League championships and made back-to-back appearances in the CIF Southern Section Division VII tile game.
Although Bell-Jeff fell in the title game to Pomona Catholic this past season, 1-0 — it also lost to the same team in 2011, 7-6 — the Guards still put together a wildly successful season. In addition, the Guards can take come comfort that they lost no seniors to graduation. On top of that, the team also fielded just two juniors last season.
Under first-year Coach Florencio Galindo, the Guards (23-6-2) did put together the most successful season in school history in terms of victories. The team also captured its third straight Santa Cruz League championship and outscored its opponents, 56-0, in four playoff victories.
The Guards were attempting to win the third CIF title in the school’s 68-year history. The Guards girls’ basketball team captured championships in 1997 and 2009.
It was also the third time in 37 years that a team from the city was able to make it to a softball championship. Burbank High won a 3-A crown in 1975, which serves as the area’s lone CIF softball title.
The team was paced by sophomore transfer Mia Acosta, who was at her best in the playoffs. The All-CIF Southern Section Division VII first-teamer and Santa Cruz League Player of the Year allowed just one run in the playoffs and none in league play, while posting a 13-3 overall record.
The team also received outstanding efforts from sophomore infielder Sofia Placios (.593 average, 36 runs batted in, 18 extra-base hits) and sophomore outfielder Jaylen Watson (.452, 31 RBI, 33 runs scored).
Bell-Jeff began the 2011-12 school year with a successful run by its girls’ volleyball team in the fall. Bell-Jeff (14-7-2) advanced to the CIF Division IV-A quarterfinals, losing to No. 1-seeded Hemet in a dogfight, 21-25, 25-16, 25-27, 25-14,15-8. The Guards also secured their sixth straight Santa Cruz League title.
Senior outside hitter Jocelyn Cervantes was a driving force for Bell-Jeff. Cervantes, who earned her third All-CIF Division IV-A accolade, her second straight league player-of-the-year honor and her fourth All-Area award, had to overcome the struggle of having to rely on a new setter last season.
During her four-year tenure, Bell-Jeff won four straight league titles, posted a 66-25-2 record, advanced to the playoff quarterfinals twice, the semifinals once and the Division IV-A championship in 2009, all under Coach Miguel Segura.
Also in the fall, Bell-Jeff cross-country runner Charles Salomon won the boys’ race at the Santa Fe League finals at Griffith Park. Salomon, who finished in 16 minutes 28 seconds on the three-mile course, helped pace the Guards to a second-place finish.
In the winter season, the Guards girls’ basketball team put together another fine season under former coach Jaclyn Johnson, who stepped aside following the season to take a position at Santa Monica College.
Bell-Jeff was paced by a pair of four-year standouts: Rishonda Napier and Jasmine Smith.
Napier, a McDonald’s All-American candidate, was named to the All-CIF Division IV-AA first-team for the third time. In addition, Napier was named the Santa Cruz League player of the year and made her fourth All-Area team. Napier averaged 21.7 points a game to go along with nearly three assists and three steals.
Smith, who earned first-team all-league and All-Area accolades, averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Bell-Jeff (24-6) captured its fifth straight Santa Cruz League title. The No. 6 Guards advanced to the Division IV-AA semifinals where they fell to No. 7 Gardena Serra, 71-54. The team also won a game in the Division IV state playoffs against Los Angeles Baptist, 70-60, before falling to St. Bernard, 65-51.
It was the Guards’ fifth straight appearance in the division semifinals, something no other team in city history has been able to accomplish.
The Bell-Jeff boys’ basketball team also qualified for the playoffs after placing fourth in the Santa Fe League.
Another fine accomplishment came in the spring season in track and field. For the first time in school history, a relay team was able to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Championships at Mt. San Antonio College.
Unfortunately for Bell-Jeff’s 400-meter relay foursome of London Webster, Jonathan Smith, Josh Martinez and Jalen Henry, it failed to finish in the Division IV final race.