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Windward and Mater Dei remain among girls’ basketball elite despite losing stars

Vanessa Nygaard stands next to her Windward basketball team.
Windward coach Vanessa Nygaard has her basketball team playing well.
(Nick Koza)

One thing can be counted on every season in high school girls’ basketball. Beware of teams coached by Vanessa Nygaard at Windward and Kevin Kiernan at Santa Ana Mater Dei.

Mater Dei won the Southern Section Open Division championship but lost its No. 1 player, Brooke Demetre, who is now at Stanford. Windward lost its No. 1 player, Juju Watkins, who transferred to Sierra Canyon. When the season began, those two schools were largely forgotten.

Except it’s December, and look who’s doing well. Mater Dei is 6-0, knocked off Corona Centennial in the Troy tournament and is coming after No. 1 Etiwanda. Caia Elisaldez, a junior point guard, has been igniting the Monarchs. Windward is 9-2 and flourishing behind standout junior guard Skye Belker, who had 24 points Tuesday night in a 60-54 win over Chaminade.

It’s another strong season for girls basketball. Sierra Canyon has taken advantage of Watkins’ arrival and the continued growth of sophomore MacKenly Randolph to start 10-0. The Windward-Sierra Canyon matchup will take place Feb. 1.

Etiwanda is 5-0 and gets the No. 1 ranking by virtue of a win over highly regarded La Jolla Country Day.

Rancho Christian is the new No. 1 boys’ basketball team in the Southland after recently defeating formerly top-ranked Sierra Canyon.

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Camarillo is 10-0 and making noise behind UCLA-bound Gabriela Jaquez, who is averaging 32 points a game.

Santa Margarita is 9-0 and will be a force when the Trinity League begins in January.

Centennial’s two losses are to Mater Dei, so don’t count out the Huskies, who are led by UCLA-bound Londynn Jones.

Oaks Christian is off to a surprising 7-0 start with wins over Chaminade and Viewpoint.

Unsung Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is 12-0. The competition hasn’t been the best but 12 consecutive wins is pretty good on any level.

Troy and Rosary have top players and are waiting to join the discussion of top teams.

The high school football season was 16 weeks of uncertainty, hope and work for coaches, players, parents and administrators. Here are the highlights.


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