Girls’ Basketball Looking For Success!

November 27, 2013 by  

tiffany-khoBurbank High girls’ basketball Coach Bruce Breeden thinks his program is long overdue for a league championship.

“I was looking it up with [athletic director] Fred [Cook] and we found out that the last time a Burbank girls’ team won a league title was during the 1910-11 season. Can you believe that? That’s over 100 years without a title,” Breeden said. “Yeah, I would say that we’re way overdue.”

Burbank, along with the other three local teams, are coming off successful seasons in which all three advanced to the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Providence pushed it even a step further by winning a Liberty League championship and advancing to the CIF semifinals for the second consecutive year. Burroughs also had title success, grabbing a piece of the Pacific League championship.

However, all four squads lost their share of talent from a year ago, mostly to graduation. But with a solid group of returners and some fresh faces mixed in, all four teams go into the 2013-14 season with high expectations.

Here is a closer look at how the teams are shaping up.


The Pioneers have taken over the reins from Bell-Jeff as the most successful girls’ basketball team in the city.

“I have been coaching for a very long time and you want to get your program to a point where winning is expected,” said Bencze, whose team went 20-11 last season, a season in which he picked up his 300th victory. “The great thing is the kids buy into it and they want to be a part of that winning tradition. All I have to do is remind them about a loss last year and they will work harder. I think our program is in a great place right now.”

Providence is coming off a season in which it defeated Buckley, 59-54, to win the first-ever Liberty League Tournament and secure its fourth-straight championship. The No. 2-seeded Pioneers did well in the Division V-AA playoffs to advance to the semifinals. However, Providence wasn’t able to advance to the program’s first championship game after losing to Village Christian, 46-45.

In the CIF State Basketball Championships, Providence won its first-round game against Tri-County Christian, 42-29, before falling to No. 2 Sierra Canyon, 78-30.

The biggest loss to graduation was All-CIF and All-Area selection Bea Benedicto, the Liberty League Player of the Year. With Benedicto doing most of her damage in the paint, she averaged a team-high 9.9 points a game to go along with 5.6 rebounds.

“We basically lost all of our three players inside,” Bencze said. “We lost four seniors, but three of them were the ones we relied on for our inside play. But the good news is that we return a good group from last season. We have five players who were on the varsity last year. And all of those five played. You’re not talking about bench players.

“We are different from last year and we won’t be as physical inside, but it’s better in that we have really, really good guard play and a lot of shooters. So, every year we find a way to be good, we just do it in different ways.”

Although one All-CIF player has departed the Pioneers, one still remains. Katia Dabbaghian returns to head the team. Dabbaghian was perhaps the Pioneers’ best all-around player a year ago. Along with averaging 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds, she also tallied 3.7 steals, 3.2 assists and nearly a block a game.

“We are going to be relying a great deal on Katia,” Bencze said. She is just such a good player and she is someone that we will be expecting to step up for us. Last year we were so even on offense that she didn’t have to do a lot, but I want her to kind of put her stamp on the team and we want her to be a player you have to stop.”

Other key returners are juniors Deanna Nazarian, Amanda Reyes and Olivia Menke, sophomore Fabi Jimenez and senior Kristie Kawamoto. Up from the junior varsity team is Rachael Camonayan, a sophomore.

A big change this season for the Pioneers is they move from CIF Division V-AA to IV-A, meaning Providence is going to have to face tougher opponents in the postseason.

“This year we would have had a great chance to win a championship in V-AA,” Bencze said. “Now in IV-A, we should be ranked 10th or 12th. So it raises the bar and if we want to be successful we have to be better than we were last year.”

Bencze said he expects Holy Martyrs and Buckley to pose the biggest obstacles to his squad winning its fifth straight Liberty League crown.


The Guards have a new coach in Eddie Miller, who brings a wealth of basketball experience to the program. Miller was a former player at Washington State. In addition, he was on the Bell-Jeff boys’ coaching staff that guided the team to a Santa Fe League championship in 2012 and an appearance in the CIF quarterfinals last season.

“I took over the girls’ program because I want to try and build it back up and make Bell-Jeff basketball a winner,” said Miller, who averaged 10 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Huskies during three seasons, ending with the 2000-01 campaign. “We just want to develop a team that is competitive and that does things the right way.”

Miller takes over for Stan Delus, who coached the Guards for one season before stepping down. Under Delus, Bell-Jeff saw its string of five straight Santa Cruz League championships snapped. The Guards placed second in league, finished with a 12-9 record and fell in the first round of the Division IV-AA playoffs to St. Bernard, 66-32.

“We are going to be a very different team than what we had last year,” Miller said. “We don’t have the kind of talent that they had and we don’t have the players who have basketball experience that they had.

“We will have 11 players this season and I got some volleyball and softball players to come out for the team. I’m going to be spending a lot of time teaching fundamentals and really getting some of the girls familiarized with playing the game of basketball. It is going to be a challenge, but the girls are working hard.”

The Guards lost three key players to graduation in Mariah Bankhead (Cal Poly Pomona), Tiffany Kho (Occidental College) and Karina Moreno.

“I have a few girls who played for Stan last year,” Miller said. “But the spirit is definitely back on the team and the girls are coming out. This won’t be your traditional Bell-Jeff women’s team, but I’ve got a lot of girls who are excited about playing and they have committed themselves to the team.”

The key returners are junior Mckenzie Dowling, sophomores Kayleen Pascual and Paula Guevara and senior Sofia Palacios, a standout on the Bell-Jeff softball team that captured a CIF championship last season.

Joining the team from the softball ranks are Tiffany Galindo, Samantha Casarez and Christina Colon. Joining from the volleyball program is Vanessa Smith.

“I’m hoping we can have it all come together, but it might take us a little time,” Miller said. “Although they might not have the basketball experience, we have some girls who are very talented athletically.”

Jeff Tully  (read full story here)

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