A league by league update on Orange County’s 2017-18 girls basketball season:
ACADEMY: Oxford Academy (13-1), a Division 3-A contender, is the two-time defending league champion and the team to beat in the seven-team league. Junior center Austyn Masuno is averaging 20.7 points and 10.3 rebounds for Oxford, ranked third in Division 3-A. Sage Hill, ranked in Division 4-AA, could be Oxford’s top competition.
CRESTVIEW: Second-ranked Brea Olinda is the favorite but won’t have an easy time with Esperanza (9-5) and Foothill (11-4) in the picture. Esperanza and Brea Olinda are both in Division 1. But the Ladycats’ speed, aggressiveness and shooting will be tough for anyone in the league to handle. Point guard Iyree Jarrett and guard Jasmine Rachal are two of the best in the county. Foothill has won eight straight games.
EMPIRE: Defending champion Tustin (9-6) has produced mixed results against solid competition. The Tillers recently snapped a 10-game winning streak by Trabuco Hills so they could be trending upward. Kennedy (10-4) looks like a contender after a narrow, runner-up finish to Canyon at the recent Garden Grove Tournament. Tustin plays at Kennedy on Jan. 12.
EXPRESS: If you like small-school teams, the Express is for you. Capistrano Valley Christian, Connelly, Liberty Christian, Pacifica Christian, Samueli Academy and Tarbut V’Torah comprise this group. Tarbut is ranked third in Division 5-A. Also don’t forget about Fullerton’s Eastside Christian in the Western Athletic Conference.
FREEWAY: The North O.C. league is all about Sonora (13-1) and Troy (5-7), two Division 1 teams. The traditionally-strong Warriors are young and trying to reload on the fly. The Raiders and Concordia-bound Lanie James are off to a fast start but haven’t played as tough of a schedule as the Warriors. The first clash arrives Jan. 23 at Sonora.
GARDEN GROVE: Three-time defending league champion Garden Grove (5-5) is the squad to watch. The Argos are eighth in Division 3-A, five spots below Oxford. Rancho Alamitos (11-4) won its first nine games, so don’t dismiss the Vaqueros.
GOLDEN WEST: Defending champion and Division 2-A contender Segerstrom (7-6) has been solid. The Jaguars beat league contender Westminster, 52-40, at the CdM Tip-Off Tournament and narrowly lost to Woodbridge and Dana Hills. Junior point guard Tati Zazuetta has been a force. The Jaguars face another team to watch in their opener Tuesday: host Ocean View. Segerstrom plays host to Westminster on Jan. 12. “Everyone is chasing them,” first-year Westminster coach Holly Armstrong said of Segerstrom. Santa Ana (11-5) extended its winning streak to eight games with a 35-30 triumph against Rancho Alamitos on Thursday.
NORTH HILLS: Canyon has the resume of a favorite. The Comanches, ranked in Division 2-AA, edged JSerra in their season-opener. JSerra then won 13 straight game. Canyon narrowly lost to Orange Lutheran in the finals of the La Habra tournament and won the Garden Grove tournament with a close victory against rising Kennedy. But don’t look past Villa Park (10-5). Canyon and the Spartans don’t tangle until late January. Yorba Linda (4-11) has played a challenging schedule.
OLYMPIC: Division 3-A ranked Whittier Christian is the lone county team in the Olympic and off to a fast 12-3 start. The Heralds play host to Northwood on Friday.
ORANGE: Defending champion Savanna is off to a 2-8 start, so this league could produce some wide-open excitement. First-year Rebels coach Alonzo Parker believes Division 5-AA Anaheim is the favorite. The improved Colonists and second-year coach Vince Gomez have opened the season 9-0, including three victories by eight points or less. Also keep an eye on Katella, which has already defeated Century, 54-16, and Santa Ana Valley. Anaheim, ranked No. 1 in Division 5-AA, opens league Tuesday night at Katella and junior guard Elena Mack.
Best under-the-radar story so far in O.C. girls hoops: Anaheim, which won only 2 games last yr, improved to 9-0 on Thursday w/ 61-33 win v. Los Amigos, Colonists coached by ex-Anaheim QB Vince Gomez, 28 @ocvarsity @SoCalPrepLegend @SteveFryer @AnaheimSports1
— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) January 5, 2018
ORANGE COAST: Godinez, the league champion last season with a 9-1 mark, is off to a 4-7 start but has played a challenging schedule. The Grizzlies opened the season with a 38-31 victory against Sea View contender Trabuco Hills. Godinez is led by junior Reyna McMorris, sister of football standouts Patrick and Malik McMorris (Mater Dei/Cal). Reyna’s sister, Catherine, has returned from a knee injury and is contributing. Patrick, Reyna and Catherina are triplets.
PACIFIC COAST: The PCL is one of the most exciting groups in the county. Division 2-A contender University (11-5), defending league champion Woodbridge (9-6), Beckman (8-8) and Northwood (6-7) have solid squads and some excellent players. University showed promise early with a victory against Foothill and recently won the WYBT Hawaii tourney. Junior point guard Malia Goldsmith (calf) is an injury to watch for University. Northwood diminutive guard Erin Matsutsuyu is averaging 30.4 points. Beckman’s Katrina Metcalf is a strong guard. Woodbridge’s Sanarya Salem is another scorer to watch.
SAN JOAQUIN: This small-school league is home to major contenders in No. 5 Fairmont Prep and No. 7 Orangewood Academy, a pair of Division 1 schools The teams’ first clash in Jan. 20 at Orangewood, the same night as the Mater Dei-Brea Olinda showdown. Saddleback Valley Christian (11-3) likely won’t challenge the powers but is much-improved. Biola-bound Ryley Shelmidine is averaging just over 18 points. SVC won only three games the past two years but is a team to watch in Division 4-A.
SEA VIEW: Trabuco Hills (13-3) and high-scoring junior Sierra Clark (18 ppg) are worth a look in this league and Division 3-AA. The Mustangs, ranked 11th in the division, went 8-0 in the Sea View last season. They had won 10 consecutive games until a recent loss against Empire League contender Tustin. Dana Hills (8-6), a contender in Division 2-A, has earned good reviews and could emerge as the top contender. The Dolphins have defeated Tustin among others. Laguna Hills is ranked in 4-AA.
SOUTH COAST: Emerging Aliso Niguel (8-5), ranked fourth in the county, is the team to watch thanks to a balanced attack and tough schedule. The South Coast favorite owns a victory against Fairmont Prep. The Wolverines have shooters and a rising sophomore post player in Catherine Swanson. Last week, Swanson racked up 76 points and 64 rebounds to help the Wolverines take third at the Larry Doyle tournament. Abby Miller is an emerging junior guard. Aliso Niguel also placed second at the Ocean View-hosted Hawk Holiday Classic. Tesoro also is a team to watch in the South Coast.
SUNSET: Defending co-champion Los Alamitos has not only hung tough after the transfer of All-County guard Cailyn Crocker to Mater Dei, its has excelled. The No. 6 Griffins recently finished second to powerhouse Canyon of Canyon Country in the finals of the West Coast Classic. Guard Asia Avinger has emerged a rising sophomore. With defending co-champion Huntington Beach retooling, the Griffins look like a league juggeranaut.
TRINITY: Top to bottom, the Trinity is the toughest league in the county but looks top heavy with No. 1 Mater Dei. The Monarchs have dominated the Trinity under 11th-year coach Kevin Kiernan. Mater Dei could be challenged by No. 3 Rosary and its duo of Kate Goostrey and Rebekah Obinma. But the Monarchs have more depth, especially on the front line with Emma Torbert, Khylee Pepe and Brooke Demetre. Case in point about Mater Dei: The Monarchs opened league Thursday with a 76-14 win against No. 10 Santa Margarita, extending their league winning streak to 75 games. Mater Dei plays host to Rosary on Jan. 18, and hopes to have a healthy Crocker and Sarah Rahon, who have yet to play.
Please send girls basketball news and tips to Dan Albano at email@example.com or @ocvarsityguy on Twitter
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