High Schools: Walters in for Sage Hill girls

It may not come up much in Orange County, but insurance can help protect against lightning strikes.

Kerwin Walters is an insurance agent for his day job. This winter, he wants to make sure the Lightning strike as hard and often as possible.

Walters is the new girls' basketball coach at Sage Hill. He takes over for Taylor Cohen, who held the position for one year.

Walters, 37, is no stranger to the hardwood at Sage Hill. The past five years, he has been the Lightning junior varsity boys' basketball coach. Prior to that, he held the same role at Northwood under former Estancia head man Tim O'Brien.

He said he was approached to take over the girls' program at Sage.

"The girls made it an easy decision," Walters said. "They want to win and they want to learn, and that's what I'm here to do."

Sage Hill (1-2) has a young team this year. The Lightning do have a pair of talented returners in senior forwards Maggie Danner and Shelby Bolen.

At a small school, players sometimes need to be versatile. Walters said Danner, fresh off leading the Sage girls' volleyball team to the CIF Southern Section Division 3-A championship match, can play any position from shooting guard up to center. Danner averaged five points and five rebounds per game last year.

"She'll bring the ball up if we need her to, and right now she's probably our best outside shooter," Walters said. "Her volleyball career has helped her quite a bit in basketball. She's starting to get very aggressive, which is what we want from her, looking to score."

Bolen, who averaged 7.3 points and seven rebounds per game last year, can play the three spot all the way to the five.

"I like her, because she doesn't like to lose," Walters said. "Her confidence has been getting stronger and stronger. She's going to be really tough to handle, especially in the post."

The Lightning will have to deal with losing their top two scorers, point guard Ava Soleimany (15.3 ppg) and center Zoe Kreitenberg (13.4 ppg and 12 rpg), to graduation. Soleimany was a two-time Newport-Mesa Dream Team selection. Sage has two sophomores, Claire Goul and Bailey Super, currently sharing point guard duties.

Walters' assistant coach, Maija Wilson, also is new. Wilson (formerly Lahde), who is from Finland, played for four years at St. Mary's College. She is the 10th-leading career scorer in Gaels history, with 1,058 points.

The early-season schedule is tough for Sage, which finished fourth in the Academy League last year. The team has four nonleague home games in four days next week, beginning with Webb on Tuesday.

But Walters said he can envision the squad having success.

"The majority of our girls are sophomores this year," he said. "We've got a little ways to go. By the end of the season, I think we're going to be fairly strong ... we've got a young group of girls who are going to be difference-makers in this league in the next couple of years to come."


The Estancia High girls' basketball team has had a successful start to the season. The Eagles made it to the consolation championship last week at the CdM Tip-Off Classic before losing to Northwood, 58-54.

Junior guard Celia Duran is again one of the area's best players. But they have also been helped by freshman twins Maya and Nefertiti Van Den Heever.

Maya is playing point guard for Estancia (4-2), and Nefertiti is the first player off the bench. Co-Coach Xavier Castellano said they are both scoring in double digits for Estancia.

Castellano said the Van Den Heever twins will be gone for a few weeks starting Sunday, however. They are leaving for the Solomon Islands, to visit their mother.

Castellano said he expects them back in early January, in time for Orange Coast League play which begins Jan. 8 against rival Costa Mesa. Last year the teams split league meetings and Costa Mesa finished second in league, Estancia third.

The teams already met this year at the CdM tournament, with Estancia rallying for a 55-45 win in the consolation semifinals Nov. 29.


Costa Mesa Coach Nichole Maddox is also happy with her team's start. Maddox said her team was missing two key players, Molly Settles and Rachel Witter, in the Estancia game.

Maddox said she expects big things out of Settles, a 5-foot-8 senior captain. Settles was first-team All-Orange Coast League a year ago and averaged 9.5 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Mustangs.

Maddox said senior center Elizabeth Ford, who played on junior varsity last year, is also stepping up.

"She's played really amazing so far," Maddox said. "We're not super-tall, but we're looking really strong."

The Mustangs are playing in the Fairmont Prep tournament this week. They host their annual Costa Mesa Winter Classic tournament beginning Dec. 26.


Upcoming nonleague games featuring two local schools include the Battle of the Bay, which is Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. at Corona del Mar. Last year the Sea Kings beat the Sailors, 30-27, earning their first win in the rivalry game in five years.

CdM plays at Costa Mesa on Jan. 4, and Estancia plays host to Newport Harbor on Jan. 26.


Twitter: @mjszabo

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