BURBANK — It was a banner year as far as the CIF Southern Section playoffs are concerned for the four local girls' basketball teams.
All four programs — Burroughs, Burbank, Bellarmine-Jefferson and Providence highs — all made the playoffs. In addition, three of the squads — the Indians, Guards and Pioneers — all won or shared league championships.
Those three teams also received some respect, as Bell-Jeff (No. 4), Burroughs (No. 4) and Providence (No. 14) are all ranked in their respective divisions.
Burroughs was able to break a longstanding dry spell in league, as it captured the Pacific League championship, the program's first in 33 years. For Bell-Jeff, it won its fourth straight Santa Cruz League crown and Providence shared the Liberty League title, it's second in a row.
With first-round games beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, here is a look at the postseason matchups.
St. Bonaventure at Providence: The Pioneers (20-6) will take on Seraphs' team that is 7-17 and placed sixth in the Tri-Valley League.
However, his opponent's record and its league placement don't fool Pioneers Coach Andrew Bencze.
"They are a good team," Bencze said about the Division IV-AA opponent. "There were a few teams I didn't want to face in the first round of the playoffs, and St. Bonaventure was one of them. They are very physical and they have some very good players."
All season, Providence has prided itself on playing tough, lock-down defense. Bencze is hoping that defensive strength will pay off against St. Bonaventure.
"We have to play good defense," said Bencze, whose team is 1-1 against the Seraphs in two playoff matchups the past five years. "I know that we're going to be able to play good defense, it will just be a matter of us being able to shoot the ball well."
Providence has been paced by senior Rita Khatchadourian, but also have solid players in Kim Quijano, Ana Solis and Bea Benedicto.
La Habra at Bell-Jeff: The Guards have moved up in divisions, and will likely find the going tougher in their quest to navigate through Division III-A.
With a No. 4 seed, the division is rife with possible roadblocks, most notably No. 1 Orange Lutheran, No. 2 Bonita and No. 3 Bishop Amat.
Bell-Jeff (20-6) — which fell in the Division IVA semifinals last season against Windward, 61-57 — had the advantage of gaining valuable experience throughout the season playing bigger schools in nonleague and tournament games.
The Guards will take on a La Habra (13-13) team that finished fourth in the Freeway League. The Highlanders haven't played well of late, as they enter the postseason losing seven of their last eight games.
Bell-Jeff, which won a state championship in 2009, has a wealth of talented players. Rishonda Napier and Jasmine Smith played on the state-title team. Other important players this season have been University of Arizona-bound Layana White, Johnece Miller, Leslie Lopez-Wood and Kiah Jones.
Mission Viejo at Burroughs: The Indians (23-5) are in the midst of a record-breaking campaign, having already set the all-time program mark of victories in the season.
Despite winning a league title and getting the No. 4 seed, the Indians could face a tough opponent in Mission Viejo (10-11), which finished fifth in the South Coast League, in the Division II-AA contest.
"I think it's a tough first-round draw for us," said Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan, whose team is on an 11-game winning streak. "But it seems like we always have a tough first-round draw."
The Diablos were rolling at the beginning of the season, as the team jumped out to a 10-3 record to start the year. However, the squad limped through the final weeks of its season and has lost its last nine.
Oganyan said she thinks that some of Mission Viejo's top players from the beginning of the season are no longer with the squad.
The Indians have been paced by Senior Lisha Elsenbach, who averages 27 points a game. However, she is not the team's lone talent, as Chelsea Rhamdeow, Shannon Kermah, Justice Shank and Aysia Shellmire give Burroughs a boost.
Burbank at Royal: The Bulldogs will be playing the Division II-AA game against a Highlanders squad that is seeded No. 9.
Royal (20-6) tied for the Marmonte League championship with Agoura. The Highlanders have lost just once in their last 15 games.
Burbank (13-13) just made the postseason by securing the No. 4 seed after finishing in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Pacific League.
The Bulldogs enter the playoffs depleted, as two starters; Evelyn Abrami and Irene Pashapour have been knocked out with injuries.