Spartans, Tigers, Titans get their share

Parity flooded the Rio Hondo League this girls' basketball season a year after league powerhouse Monrovia High took the title with a perfect record.

The Wildcats didn't have the luxury of counting out teams like La Cañada, South Pasadena and San Marino this year, as the Spartans and Tigers kept league title hopes alive late into the season.

The Spartans, Tigers and Titans each leaned heavily on one player this season and each were rewarded with all-league first-team honors — Spartan Courtney Chen, Tiger Kelsey Nakamura and Titan Leigh Kunitake.

Chen took over the Spartans point guard duties as a sophomore and led them in offensively and defensively.

La Cañada took second in league with a 16-12, 7-3 in league record behind Chen, who averaged team-highs in points (15.3), assists (4.1) and steals (3.6).

"It's a tough role as a point guard, but her ability to score is what makes her unique," La Cañada Coach Tamar Hill said. "Last year was a trial by fire, she really got thrown in there as a freshman. She has really evolved as a result of being thrown in the pan like that."

The Spartans also had senior Sydney Zarate make the first team after she averaged 5.7 points, 7.7 rebounds a game and really gave La Cañada a boost when she was hitting her shots.

"There were a few games that were tight and she came through and hit some big shots for us," Hill said. "When she hit those we started to flow. She didn't have amazing numbers, but her stats were always consistent."

Lauren Barsamian earned second-team honors for La Cañada, posting a team-best 41 field-goal percentage (57 of 138) with six points, a team-high 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks a game.

The Spartans' Keilee Bessho also made second team after posting 4.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game as a freshman.

South Pasadena relied on senior guard Nakamura to lead the Tigers to a 18-10, 6-4 mark.

Nakamura averaged team-highs in points (11.1), assists (3.5) and steals (2.8), while also pulling down 6.7 boards a game.

"Kelsey is pretty much our coach on the court," South Pasadena Coach Rick Kitagawa said. "She is a good kid and it's hard because as a coach you don't get those kids all of the time."

The Tigers' Sophia Hathaway and Amber Partida (5.3 points and 2.5 rebounds a game) each hauled in second-team accolades.

Hathaway was South Pas' leading rebounder with 11.6 boards, a team-high 1.4 blocks and 7.9 points a game as a freshman.

Kunitake, a junior, led the Titans in scoring, 14.3 points a game, and to a fourth-place finish in league with a 13-12, 4-5 record.

"She was our top offensive threat and everybody who played us knew they had to keep an eye on her and keep her in check because she's dangerous," San Marino Coach Kenny Fisher said.

Kristin Leung and Emma Wong both earned second-team honors for the Titans after the pair averaged 11.2 and 5.6 points a game, respectively. Leung also had the second most assists for San Marino this year and Wong served as the Titans' top defender.

Blair's Kayla Pounds received a first-team nod despite the Vikings finishing last in league with a 2-19, 0-10 record.

Among the league's honorable mentions were Blair's Tamarie Davis and Gwen Anderson; La Cañada's Abbey Neat and Micaela Anderson (6.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game); San Marino's Felita Salim (4.9 points a game) and Adrea Yen (4.6 points a game) and South Pas' Malika Murphy (six rebounds, two steals a game) and Lexie Scholtz (five points, 1.7 steals and 1.6 assists a game).

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