Bell-Jeff Captures Girls’ Basketball State Title!

March 21, 2009 by  

SACRAMENTO – Gupilan cousins lead Bell-Jeff to area’s first girls’ crown. As the final seconds ticked off the clock and Bell-Jeff of Burbank’s 55-47 victory over Pinewood of Los Altos Hills in the Div. V state girls’ basketball final became official, it did not take long for the Gupilan cousins to find each other.

Shelley and Margeaux Gupilan met at midcourt. They didn’t say much, but there was nothing that needed to be said for these two, who have been playing together since fifth grade.

Just a hearty handshake on a job well done. Mission accomplished. History was made.

The only thing left was to celebrate Bell-Jeff’s first state title in any sport and the area’s first girls’ basketball state title.

“It started to hit us, the magnitude of the situation,” Shelley Gupilan said. “We were speechless really.”

It was a Gupilan family affair from the outset. (listen to a replay of the game here!)

Shelley Gupilan said about 40 family members made the trek to Arco Arena, including Amanda Gupilan, Margeaux’s sister, who played for Bell-Jeff last season.

“Amanda told us to play like it was our last game,” Shelley Gupilan said.

The Gupilans put on a show.

Shelley Gupilan was a force with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting. She added sixrebounds and two assists.

Margeaux Gupilan contributed 13 points, five rebounds and two assists. Margeaux hit a pair of back-breaking 3-pointers during a 9-0 run to close the first half that gave Bell-Jeff (34-1) control against a Pinewood team that entered the contest 3-0 in previous state title games.

“I was so excited,” Margeaux Gupilan said. “We reached all three of our goals – winning league, winning CIF and now state. I’m proud we ended on a good note.”

Freshman Rishonda Napier played poised early and helped Bell-Jeff establish itself, scoring eight of her nine points in the first quarter as Bell-Jeff took a 17-11 lead after one quarter and a 31-20 halftime advantage.

“I wanted to come out and play hard from the beginning. I wanted this ring so much,” Napier said. “We’ve been working so hard for this. All those 6 a.m. practices, those extra shooting sessions, we were going to make it count.”

Bell-Jeff’s press rattled Pinewood from the start and was a nuisance the entire game.

Lindsay Nickel had 16 points and nine rebounds for Pinewood (31-5). Hailie Eackles added 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Miranda Seto scored 12 points, but Bell-Jeff’s pressure forced Pinewood to exert a lot of energy on every possession and commit 22 turnnovers.

“When they saw we were bothered by their press, they were like a shark smelling fish in the water,” Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said. “They were around you, bothering you, trapping you in corners. They were not going to give up any easy points.”

Bell-Jeff coach Bryan Camacho said playing teams like Inglewood, Marlborough, Chatsworth and Beverly Hills prepared his team to play at a high level.

“Even from the summer, I think we demonstrated to our kids that they can play with anyone. We created a sense of confidence,” Camacho said. “They might’ve been sick, or injured, or getting yelled at by a big, bad, old coach, but they developed an attitude of not backing down. This is a tribute to them.”

Bell-Jeff relished its chance to revel.

There was the frenzied jumping and celebratory shouting as soon as the game ended. The team accepted their state medals, they posed for the obligatory photos at midcourt and Camacho hoisted the championship plaque, much to the delight of the surprisingly large Bell-Jeff fan base.

Some players even did their version of the Lambeau leap – Arco style – jumping over a raised barrier on the baseline to celebrate with their fans.

Senior Elizabeth Hawthorne, a four-year varsity player who grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, held a death grip on the championship plaque all the way into the postgame news conference.

“I was just so excited,” Hawthorne said. “This was four years of hard work, and I was so happy, I did not want to let go of the trophy.”

By Tony Ciniglio, Staff Writer Daily News

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5 Responses to “Bell-Jeff Captures Girls’ Basketball State Title!”

  1. Maria (Paz) Balbierz on March 21st, 2009 11:13 am

    Way to go Lady Guards!

    As I live in northern California I don’t often get the chance to visit Bell-Jeff, but was very excited to see that the basketball team made it to the state finals – and won! I was thrilled to be among the crowd there yesterday cheering for your success (and mine by association).

    Congratulations and I hope to see you again next year!

    Alumni – Class of 1982

  2. admin on March 21st, 2009 11:47 am

    Thanks for your support Maria!


  3. Irma Alvarez on March 21st, 2009 3:18 pm

    Congrulations Lady Guards and to Bell-Jeff! This is an amazing accomplishment! I had the opporunity to be at this game yesterday at Arco Arena to watch this game and support the Lady Guards. Luckily, I was told that morning by a former almni about the game, and living in Sacramento I knew I had to be a part of this. Congrats again to the women’s basketball team and the coaching staff!
    “Worms” from Class of 1996

  4. faye and leah on March 29th, 2009 1:12 am

    Congratulations Rishonda!!! We haven’t seen you in awhile but we hear great things about all you are doing..Keep up the good work and Leah hopes she is as strong a point guard and AAAAA+++ student as you are. Thanks for inviting her to see you play when you were in fourth grade. Hugs to your mom and dad too!

  5. Stacy Bartole on April 6th, 2009 10:08 pm

    Congratulations Lady Guards! A superb ending to a superb season. Wish I could’ve been there to support the team, the coaching staff & relish in the victory. Coach Camacho has done an excellent job since taking over the reigns in his second stint as commander.

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