Is A CIF Title In The Cards For Local Teams?

August 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

BURBANK – In two weeks, high school athletes will be back in action, as football, boys’ water polo, cross-country, girls’ volleyball and girls’ golf teams get ready to kick off the 2012-13 school year.

As is the case this time every year, anticipation for success is high, and optimism runs rampant among the coaches and athletes who compete at Burbank, Burroughs, Providence and Bellarmine-Jefferson highs.

It is a time to look forward with lofty aspirations and a time to set goals. Before the first athletes hit the courts, take to the pools and the fields, or hit the courses and tracks, anything is possible — including a winning season, and maybe even a Southern Section championship.

The last two seasons, four local teams have advanced to CIF championship contests. Bell-Jeff softball accomplished the feat in 2011 and 2012, the Providence boys’ basketball squad also made it to a title game in 2012 and the Burroughs boys’ volleyball team was a finalist in 2011. However, despite making it to a championship, none of the four squads was able to take home a title.

Winning CIF crowns has been a difficult task for the area schools the past few decades. In fact, only two championships have been won by area schools in 20 years, and both of them were captured by the Guards’ girls’ basketball program. A Bryan Camacho-coached squad took the Division V-A crown in 2009 — also winning the city’s only state team title in any sport — and Jaclyn Johnson sank a shot at the buzzer in 1997 to lift Bell-Jeff to a IV-A title.

However, those two titles are a rarity. In a span of 37 years — since a Bulldogs squad won a softball crown in 1975 — Burbank-area teams have captured four championships.

Coach Clyde Richards and his Burbank boys’ tennis team nailed down a Division III crown in 1993 for the school’s first title in eight years.

The Providence baseball team, led by future major-leaguerJeff Cirillo, won a Small Schools championship in 1986.

At least Burbank, Bell-Jeff and Providence have won titles. Poor Burroughs, a school that has been around since 1948, has never — that’s right, NEVER — won a CIF Southern Section team championship.

In 1955, a Bill Flora-coached Indians boys’ basketball team did make it to the Major Division championship game, losing to Alhambra, 46-35.

However, the past few decades, very few Indians teams have even made it to a final contest.

Following the Burroughs football team’s appearances in Northwestern Division championship games in 1981 and 1987 — it lost both games — just two other squads has been able to qualify. Along with the boys’ volleyball team two years ago, the Indians boys’ soccer team lost to Bell Gardens, 3-1, in a Division III final in 1994.

There are actually a number of teams that have a legitimate chance to win a CIF championship during the 2012-13 campaign.

At the top of the list is the Providence boys’ basketball team. Led by freshman sensation Marcus LoVett Jr., the Pioneers advanced to the Division V-A championship game last season, only to fall to Liberty League foe Holy Martyrs, 65-62.

Behind LoVett, who averaged 31.7 points a game, Providence (26-6) captured its first Liberty League championship in 12 years.

The Pioneers will have most of their key players back from last season, with the exception of standout Patrick Gonzalez, who graduated. If LoVett stays put — there have been rumors about his possible transfer to a number of schools — Providence should find itself back in the title game.

Since it has qualified for the Division VII championship contest the last two seasons, it would be a good bet to expect the Guards to make a return to their third straight title game. However, that task was made more difficult by a recent realignment by the CIF Office. Bell-Jeff will move up to Division VI, where the competition will be inherently more difficult.

But the Guards have their entire team returning, and a year’s experience under their belts could help the team compete in the higher division.

Another Bell-Jeff program — girls’ basketball — has advanced to at least the playoff quarterfinals for four straight seasons. However, with the graduation of All-CIF standouts Jasmine Smith and Rishonda Napier, and the addition of a new coach, it will likely be difficult for the Guards to win the IV-AA crown.

The Providence girls’ basketball team, which advanced to a CIF semifinal game for the first time in school history, also returns most of its key players. Although I wouldn’t count out any Pioneers team that is coached by Andrew Bencze, the Pioneers would have a definite uphill battle to capture a Division V-AA title.

Along with its finals appearance two years ago, the Burroughs boys’ volleyball squad also made the Division III semifinals in 2012. But the Indians lost some key players to graduation, and although the team should have a solid playoff run, nailing down a CIF crown would be a long shot.

Another long shot would be the Burbank girls’ basketball team, which got to the Division I-A semifinals in 2012. But that division is extremely tough, and another deep postseason run is unlikely

The most successful area team could be the Burbank boys’ cross-country squad. With their stars back, the Bulldogs could make another appearance in the State Meet, where they placed 11 last season. However, Burbank competes in ultra-tough Division I, where some of the best teams in the state reside. Winning a Division I championship would be a monumental accomplishment.

Despite a shaky track record, hopefully one, or more, area teams will break through and bring the area a coveted CIF championship this upcoming school year. More than a few squads definitely have a shot.

Jeff Tully

Girls’ Volleyball Leads Trio Of CIF Ranked Squads!

August 28, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

BURBANK – Three local teams earned top-10 rankings in preseason polls released by the CIF Southern Section Read more

Win Is Wild Affair For Bell-Jeff Football!

August 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

NORTH HILLS — Martinez paces Bell-Jeff to victory in opener against Monroe on the road, 65-35.
There is a lot that is different with the Read more

Bell-Jeff Softball Leads Way During 2011-12 Campaign!

August 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

BURBANK – No other team has been as successful at Bellarmine-Jefferson High over the last two years as the school’s softball squad.

Over that span, the Guards have captured consecutive Santa Cruz League championships and made back-to-back appearances in the CIF Southern Section Division VII tile game.

Although Bell-Jeff fell in the title game to Pomona Catholic this past season, 1-0 — it also lost to the same team in 2011, 7-6 — the Guards still put together a wildly successful season. In addition, the Guards can take come comfort that they lost no seniors to graduation. On top of that, the team also fielded just two juniors last season.

Under first-year Coach Florencio Galindo, the Guards (23-6-2) did put together the most successful season in school history in terms of victories. The team also captured its third straight Santa Cruz League championship and outscored its opponents, 56-0, in four playoff victories.

The Guards were attempting to win the third CIF title in the school’s 68-year history. The Guards girls’ basketball team captured championships in 1997 and 2009.

It was also the third time in 37 years that a team from the city was able to make it to a softball championship. Burbank High won a 3-A crown in 1975, which serves as the area’s lone CIF softball title.

The team was paced by sophomore transfer Mia Acosta, who was at her best in the playoffs. The All-CIF Southern Section Division VII first-teamer and Santa Cruz League Player of the Year allowed just one run in the playoffs and none in league play, while posting a 13-3 overall record.

The team also received outstanding efforts from sophomore infielder Sofia Placios (.593 average, 36 runs batted in, 18 extra-base hits) and sophomore outfielder Jaylen Watson (.452, 31 RBI, 33 runs scored).

Bell-Jeff began the 2011-12 school year with a successful run by its girls’ volleyball team in the fall. Bell-Jeff (14-7-2) advanced to the CIF Division IV-A quarterfinals, losing to No. 1-seeded Hemet in a dogfight, 21-25, 25-16, 25-27, 25-14,15-8. The Guards also secured their sixth straight Santa Cruz League title.

Senior outside hitter Jocelyn Cervantes (Cal State Stanislaus) was a driving force for Bell-Jeff. Cervantes, who earned her third All-CIF Division IV-A accolade, her second straight league player-of-the-year honor and her fourth All-Area award, had to overcome the struggle of having to rely on a new setter last season.

During her four-year tenure, Bell-Jeff won four straight league titles, posted a 66-25-2 record, advanced to the playoff quarterfinals twice, the semifinals once and the Division IV-A championship in 2009, all under Coach Miguel Segura.

Also in the fall, Bell-Jeff cross-country runner Charles Salomon won the boys’ race at the Santa Fe League finals at Griffith Park. Salomon, who finished in 16 minutes 28 seconds on the three-mile course, helped pace the Guards to a second-place finish.

In the winter season, the Guards girls’ basketball team put together another fine season under former coach Jaclyn Johnson, who stepped aside following the season to take a position at Santa Monica College.

Bell-Jeff was paced by a pair of four-year standouts: Rishonda Napier (Southern Illinois University) and Jasmine Smith (San Jose State).

Napier, a McDonald’s All-American candidate, was named to the All-CIF Division IV-AA first-team for the third time. In addition, Napier was named the Santa Cruz League player of the year and made her fourth All-Area team. Napier averaged 21.7 points a game to go along with nearly three assists and three steals.

Smith, who earned first-team all-league and All-Area accolades, averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds a game.

Bell-Jeff (24-6) captured its fifth straight Santa Cruz League title. The No. 6 Guards advanced to the Division IV-AA semifinals where they fell to No. 7 Gardena Serra, 71-54. The team also won a game in the Division IV state playoffs against Los Angeles Baptist, 70-60, before falling to St. Bernard, 65-51.

It was the Guards’ fifth straight appearance in the division semifinals, something no other team in city history has been able to accomplish.

The Bell-Jeff boys’ basketball team led by senior Elijah Reed, (University of Puget Sound), also qualified for the playoffs after placing fourth in the Santa Fe League.

Another fine accomplishment came in the spring season in track and field. For the first time in school history, a relay team was able to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Championships at Mt. San Antonio College.

Unfortunately for Bell-Jeff’s 400-meter relay foursome of London Webster, Jonathan Smith, Josh Martinez and Jalen Henry, it failed to finish in the Division IV final race.

Jeff Tully

Bell-Jeff’s Napier Leaving A Legacy!

August 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

BURBANK – Rishonda Napier ends her tenure at Bell-Jeff as one of the most decorated players in program history, helping the Guards to a league title and a deep CIF run. Read more