Girls' basketball teams hoping to find success after graduation of key players

Burbank High girls' basketball Coach Bruce Breeden thinks his program is long overdue for a league championship.

"I was looking it up with [athletic director] Fred [Cook] and we found out that the last time a Burbank girls' team won a league title was during the 1910-11 season. Can you believe that? That's over 100 years without a title," Breeden said. "Yeah, I would say that we're way overdue."

Burbank, along with the other three local teams, are coming off successful seasons in which all three advanced to the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Providence pushed it even a step further by winning a Liberty League championship and advancing to the CIF semifinals for the second consecutive year. Burroughs also had title success, grabbing a piece of the Pacific League championship.

However, all four squads lost their share of talent from a year ago, mostly to graduation. But with a solid group of returners and some fresh faces mixed in, all four teams go into the 2013-14 season with high expectations.

Here is a closer look at how the teams are shaping up.


The Pioneers have taken over the reins from Bell-Jeff as the most successful girls' basketball team in the city.

"I have been coaching for a very long time and you want to get your program to a point where winning is expected," said Bencze, whose team went 20-11 last season, a season in which he picked up his 300th victory. "The great thing is the kids buy into it and they want to be a part of that winning tradition. All I have to do is remind them about a loss last year and they will work harder. I think our program is in a great place right now."

Providence is coming off a season in which it defeated Buckley, 59-54, to win the first-ever Liberty League Tournament and secure its fourth-straight championship. The No. 2-seeded Pioneers did well in the Division V-AA playoffs to advance to the semifinals. However, Providence wasn't able to advance to the program's first championship game after losing to Village Christian, 46-45.

In the CIF State Basketball Championships, Providence won its first-round game against Tri-County Christian, 42-29, before falling to No. 2 Sierra Canyon, 78-30.

The biggest loss to graduation was All-CIF and All-Area selection Bea Benedicto, the Liberty League Player of the Year. With Benedicto doing most of her damage in the paint, she averaged a team-high 9.9 points a game to go along with 5.6 rebounds.

"We basically lost all of our three players inside," Bencze said. "We lost four seniors, but three of them were the ones we relied on for our inside play. But the good news is that we return a good group from last season. We have five players who were on the varsity last year. And all of those five played. You're not talking about bench players.

"We are different from last year and we won't be as physical inside, but it's better in that we have really, really good guard play and a lot of shooters. So, every year we find a way to be good, we just do it in different ways."

Although one All-CIF player has departed the Pioneers, one still remains. Katia Dabbaghian returns to head the team. Dabbaghian was perhaps the Pioneers' best all-around player a year ago. Along with averaging 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds, she also tallied 3.7 steals, 3.2 assists and nearly a block a game.

"We are going to be relying a great deal on Katia," Bencze said. She is just such a good player and she is someone that we will be expecting to step up for us. Last year we were so even on offense that she didn't have to do a lot, but I want her to kind of put her stamp on the team and we want her to be a player you have to stop."

Other key returners are juniors Deanna Nazarian, Amanda Reyes and Olivia Menke, sophomore Fabi Jimenez and senior Kristie Kawamoto. Up from the junior varsity team is Rachael Camonayan, a sophomore.

A big change this season for the Pioneers is they move from CIF Division V-AA to IV-A, meaning Providence is going to have to face tougher opponents in the postseason.

"This year we would have had a great chance to win a championship in V-AA," Bencze said. "Now in IV-A, we should be ranked 10th or 12th. So it raises the bar and if we want to be successful we have to be better than we were last year."

Bencze said he expects Holy Martyrs and Buckley to pose the biggest obstacles to his squad winning its fifth straight Liberty League crown.


The Indians are coming of a season in which they went 23-5 and shared the Pacific League championship with Arcadia.

Unfortunately for the Indians, they couldn't carry over that success into the playoffs, as they fell in a CIF Southern Section Division I-A first-round contest to Fountain Valley, 61-57.

Much of that success came on the back of the 6-foot-1 Aysia Shellmire, who graduated. Shellmire, an All-Area pick and league co-player of the year, did a workmanlike job for Burroughs all season, as her 16.9 points per game were a team high. In addition, she averaged eight rebounds, 3.7 blocks and two steals a game.

"She led us in scoring and she stepped up for is," Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan. "It's hard to replace scoring like that."

Despite the loss of their leading scorer, the cupboard is far from bare for the Indians this season. The team returns a core of solid players who have their share of experience.

"We have a pretty good group of four back. We still only have four seniors, so we are still on the young side," Oganyan said. "Those girls have been with the program and they've played a lot of basketball.

"The great thing is that they have the experience. Right now, my top eight girls who are seniors, juniors and even some of the sophomores from last year, you can see that practices are so much easier and they just get stuff faster. They are learning more and retaining more. So even though we lost scoring, we're more balanced this year and the scoring can come from anyone."

That group of four returning starters consists of juniors Davina Del Castillo and Delaney Nicol and seniors Sidney Ortega and Jakarra Waddell.

Del Castillo, an all-league first-team selection, was a rebounding machine for the Indians, averaging 10.3 a game. She also averaged 5.5 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 steals. Ortega was Burroughs' second-leading scoring with 12.9 points a game, which included 142 three-pointers. She also averaged 1.7 steals a game.

"We don't have much height, so we are going to try and use our quickness more this season," Oganyan said. "We have to be more aggressive and we have to play more in the full court."

Other key returners for Burroughs are sophomore Brooke Radcliff and seniors Paula Galicia and Alondra Ramirez. Freshmen who Oganyan said could see their share of playing time are Justine Barraza, Kamryn Cardenaz and Jocelyn Rieken.

In the race for the Pacific League championship, Oganyan said she expects an open field.

"I think a lot of teams are going to be pretty even this year," she said. "I know Arcadia is pretty good and they have a solid team. …CV has their key player back and Burbank is going to be good. And you never know about Muir."


The Bulldogs went 16-13 last season and placed third in the Pacific League, just one game behind Burroughs and Arcadia. Burbank defeated El Toro, 53-41, in the first round of the Division I-A playoffs before losing to Canyon Springs, 85-43, in the second round.

The team also lost its leading scorer in Courtney Seidler, an all-league first-team honoree. Seidler averaged 10.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals a game.

But the Bulldogs might just have a player who can step in and help with some of that scoring burden in Yassemeen Sa'Dullah, a junior transfer from Cuesta.

"She is a very good player and she handles the ball well," Breeden said. "She has come right in and fit in right away with the team. Hopefully she's going to help us this season."

Although Sa'Dullah was cleared by the CIF office to play Monday, the Bulldogs are still waiting on the status of another transfer. Junior Anastacia Tsybaeva, a 6-5 inside post presence, was in the Burbank program as a freshman before transferring and playing at Bell-Jeff last season. She has since transferred back to Burbank.

"We are still waiting to hear word about her from the CIF," Breeden said. "We don't know how long that will take. With Anastacia in there for us, obviously it changes some things and allows us to do more."

The Bulldogs' leading returning scorer is senior Ashley Linda, who averaging 6.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and two steals last year to garner all-league second-team honors."

Another key returner is senior Sharis Ghazeri, an outside shooting threat. Other players Breeden expects a great deal out of are seniors Rebecca Cachon, Ratina Karapet and Fatima Cisneros, along with junior Talin Hayodyan.

"What's good about out team is we're going to have some very good shooters," Breeden said. "We have a group of girls who can shoot and score from all over the floor."

With the group of talented shooters, Breeden sees his squad among the top teams this season fighting for a league championship.

"I would be very disappointed if we aren't in the mix," he said. "We want to compete and we are going for a playoff spot, but why not shoot for a league title? We should have as much talent as anybody, so I think we should be up there."


The Guards have a new coach in Eddie Miller, who brings a wealth of basketball experience to the program. Miller was a former player at Washington State. In addition, he was on the Bell-Jeff boys' coaching staff that guided the team to a Santa Fe League championship in 2012 and an appearance in the CIF quarterfinals last season.

"I took over the girls' program because I want to try and build it back up and make Bell-Jeff basketball a winner," said Miller, who averaged 10 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Huskies during three seasons, ending with the 2000-01 campaign. "We just want to develop a team that is competitive and that does things the right way."

Miller takes over for Stan Delus, who coached the Guards for one season before stepping down. Under Delus, Bell-Jeff saw its string of five straight Santa Cruz League championships snapped. The Guards placed second in league, finished with a 12-9 record and fell in the first round of the Division IV-AA playoffs to St. Bernard, 66-32.

"We are going to be a very different team than what we had last year," Miller said. "We don't have the kind of talent that they had and we don't have the players who have basketball experience that they had.

"We will have 11 players this season and I got some volleyball and softball players to come out for the team. I'm going to be spending a lot of time teaching fundamentals and really getting some of the girls familiarized with playing the game of basketball. It is going to be a challenge, but the girls are working hard."

The Guards lost three key players to graduation in Mariah Bankhead, Tiffany Kho and Karina Moreno.

"I have a few girls who played for Stan last year," Miller said. "But the spirit is definitely back on the team and the girls are coming out. This won't be your traditional Bell-Jeff women's team, but I've got a lot of girls who are excited about playing and they have committed themselves to the team."

The key returners are junior Mckenzie Dowling, sophomores Kayleen Pascual and Paula Guevara and senior Sofia Palacios, a standout on the Bell-Jeff softball team that captured a CIF championship last season.

Joining the team from the softball ranks are Tiffany Galindo, Samantha Casarez and Christina Colon. Joining from the volleyball program is Vanessa Smith.

"I'm hoping we can have it all come together, but it might take us a little time," Miller said. "Although they might not have the basketball experience, we have some girls who are very talented athletically."

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