Landini Named League MVP!

June 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

monique_MVPBURBANK – There was no doubt that the Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team was the class of the Santa Cruz League this past season.

The Guards captured their fourth straight league championship, going undefeated with an 8-0 record. The closest game the Guards experienced in league play was a 5-1 victory over St. Matthias. The other games weren’t even close.

That success carried over into the playoffs. The Guards capped their season June 1 by defeating Mary Star of the Sea, 8-4, in the CIF Southern Section Division VI championship, giving the program its first title.

With that kind of success, it’s not surprising that Bell-Jeff cleaned up when the All-Santa Cruz League awards were handed out. In fact, seven Guards earned all-league accolades.

Leading the way was senior shortstop Monique Landini, who was named the league’s player of the year. Teammate Mia Acosta, a junior pitcher, was singled out as the league’s pitcher of the year for the second consecutive season.

Making the first team was junior second baseman Tiffany Galindo, junior catcher Samantha Casarez, junior third baseman Cristina Colon and sophomore first baseman Sofia Palacios. Junior outfielder Priscilla Panizo was a second-team selection.

“Our team chemistry was amazing this season, and that’s why we were able to be so successful,” Landini said. “It’s been more of a family with us this season. We all got along really well and that showed on the field.”

Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo said Landini has been a valuable asset to the program since she broke in four years as a freshman and instantly earned a starting job.

“In her four years she really saw it all, and she was able to come through every year for the team,” said Galindo, whose team finished the season 23-10. “Along with her great offense skills, she was also the anchor for us on the defense. It’s an asset any time you can have a player like her up the middle.

monique-landini_sfball“We asked her to do a lot this season and she was able to come through, on offense and defense. She was a real leader for us.”

Landini batted .410 (41 for 100) for the Guards. In addition, she drove in 25 runs, scored 31 runs and had six doubles, seven triples, four home runs and a .730 slugging percentage.

The senior carried her league success over into the playoffs. In the Division VI championship game, Landini belted two home runs to pace the Guards to victory.

Now that her high school career is over, Landini — who won four league titles during her four seasons — will move on to St. Johns.

“Sometimes I’m a little nervous when I think about going and playing in college, but I’m also really excited to be going because it gives me a chance to keep playing,” she said.

Acosta was a stalwart in the circle for the Guards. She compiled a 16-3 record with 102 strikeouts and had a 1.68 earned-run average in 116 2/3 innings. Opponents hit just .192 off her. Acosta was also accomplished at the plate, hitting .446 (37 for 83) with 38 RBI, 24 runs, six doubles, four triples and five home runs.

“We always knew with Mia out there she was going to do her job as a pitcher,” Galindo said. “It was just a matter of us getting the hits to help her out.”

Casarez proved to be a steady contributor for Bell-Jeff, finishing with a .412 batting average (42 for 102) with 15 RBI and 31 runs scored. Tiffany Galindo hit .327 (34 for 104) with 13 RBI and 27 runs, Colon batted .352 (37 for 105) with 22 RBI, 31 runs and eight doubles and Palacios hit .391 (36 for 92) with 26 RBI, 23 runs and four home runs.

Rounding out the Bell-Jeff honorees, Panizo had a .352 batting average (31 for 88) with 22 RBI, 19 runs and two home runs.

Jeff Tully

Boys’ Basketball All-League Accolades

March 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

malcolm_cifBURBANK –  Boys’ basketball players from Burroughs High, Burbank, Providence and Bellarmine-Jefferson were honored with all-league awards in their respective leagues.

Leading the Burbank area in scoring this past season was Pioneers junior Christian Ware-Berry, who was an All-Liberty League first-team selection. The junior averaged 22.2 points a game to go along with 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals.

Ware-Berry had to step up when reigning All-Area Player of the Year Marcus LoVett Jr. was sidelined for a period and then departed from the team.

“He was our best defensive players a year ago, but this season he was forced to be our leading scorer after Marcus went out,” Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville said of Ware-Berry. “And he just worked hard to do that. He never complained and he was willing to do whatever we needed of him.”

The Pioneers (9-18) placed third in the Liberty League Tournament and qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs as an at-large team.

The Guards had four selections, as junior Malcolm Regisford, sophomore Abid Oses and senior Jalen Henrywere named to the All-Santa Fe League first team and seniorWil Morales was a second-team selection.

abidBell-Jeff (17-12) was runner-up in the Santa Cruz League and advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

In the Pacific League, Burroughs senior Lawrence Whitewas the lone first-team selection among the locals. Lawrence averaged 18.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, three assists and two blocks a game.

“Lawrence led us in all the major categories and it’s very rare to have a high school player do that on a team,” Burroughs Coach Adam Hochberg said. “He really led us and he showed what can happen when you put in a lot of hard work and you’re dedicated to improving as a player.”

Burbank senior Richard Elmoyan was a second-team honoree, while senior teammate Sarkis Karaian landed a spot on honorable mention, as did Indians senior Kalen Verhoeven.

Burroughs (15-11, 5-9 in league) placed sixth in the Pacific League and qualified for the playoffs.

Burbank (16-13) finished fourth in the Pacific League and won a game in the postseason.

Young athletes get chance to shine in annual meet: Some of the finest youth track and field athletes from the area will be in action next month in the Burbank All-City Middle Schools Track Meet.

The event will take place from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on April 13 at Burbank High.

All three middle schools — John Muir, Luther Burbank and David Star Jordan — will participate. Muir is the host this year.

jalenThe high-jump competition will begin at 8:30 and running events will start at 9.

The meet has been going strong since 2002, when it was resurrected after not being held for 12 years.

There will also be results available from past meets, going back to the 1950s and ’60s, and they can be obtained for free.

For more information, call Bronco Sevic at (818) 558-5320.

Baseball exhibit runs through the end of the month: The Baseball Reliquary launched its 2013 season of exhibitions and programs with “A Glorious Baseball Attic,” at the Burbank Central Library (110 N. Glenoaks Blvd.) The exhibition, which runs through March 28, offers viewers a glimpse into a strange but wonderful baseball attic.

Unlike most Reliquary exhibitions, “A Glorious Baseball Attic” features limited curatorial text, but it is a visual feast guaranteed to delight baseball fans young and old.

willOn the closing night of the exhibition, Jon Leonoudakis will host a screening of his documentary on the Baseball Reliquary, “Not Exactly Cooperstown.” The program will begin at 7 p.m. in the Burbank Central Library Auditorium with a $2 trivia contest. A prize will also be awarded to the person wearing the best baseball attire.

DVDs of “Not Exactly Cooperstown” will be available for sale for $20. Incidentally, if individuals are unable to attend the screening on March 28, but wish to purchase a DVD, they can order it directly through the Baseball Reliquary. Go to the Reliquary website home page athttp://www.baseballreliquary.org, where there are links to the DVD order form and “Not Exactly Cooperstown” website.

Jeff Tully

Local Boys Basketball Teams Headed To Playoffs!

February 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

abidBURBANK – Despite his team’s 31-point loss in its Santa Fe League finale, Bellarmine-Jefferson Coach Julian Andrade is quite confident that his team could have a lengthy postseason run ahead of it.

And after CIF Southern Section playoff pairings were released on Sunday, all four Burbank-area squads have a chance to do that.

Bell-Jeff will open up the Division 5-AA playoffs by hosting Academy of Careers and Exploration, while Burbank travels to face Loara in Division 1-A and both Burroughs and Providence earned at-large bids in their respective divisions.
“In our division, I’m not gonna be surprised if we get to the semifinals or finals,” Andrade said.
Bell-Jeff (17-9) is the No. 8 seed and will face an ACE team that’s 11-7 and finished third in the Cross Valley League on Wednesday. A Bell-Jeff win would put it in Friday’s second round against La Sierra Academy or Bishop Diego.

“I think we’re coming around,” Andrade said. “I feel really good about our chances. We had a good schedule to prepare us for this competition.”

Burbank took fourth in the Pacific League and, with a 15-12 record takes on a Loara team that is 20-7 and took second in the Golden West League. The first-round Division 1-A matchup on Friday will send the victor into Tuesday’s second round against Alhambra or second-seeded Santa Monica.

First-year Coach Jerry DeLaurie has Burbank back in the playoffs after the Bulldogs failed to make the postseason a year ago.

“We’re excited to be in the playoffs, and we are going to show up and we’re going to play hard. “I’m proud of the guys and the fact that we finished .500 in league and we didn’t have to apply for the playoffs but we made it as the No. 4 team from the league.

“We have played a tough schedule, and I’m hoping that will help us in the playoffs.”

Burroughs (15-11) took fifth in the Pacific League and earned an at-large berth into the Division 1-A dance and will travel to face No. 8 Cypress (20-7), the second-place team out of the Empire League. The winner will face Corona Santiago or La Sierra in the second round.

“We are really happy that we were able to make it to the playoffs,” Burroughs Coach Adam Hochberg said. “We know we are going to be taking on a good team from a good league, but we’re just happy to be given the opportunity to compete.”

Despite dropping its last two Liberty League games and four of its last five overall, Providence earned an at-large berth in Division 5-AA with a 10-16 record.

Now playing without reigning All-Area Player of the Year Marcus LoVett, Jr., the Pioneers will travel to play Desert Mountain League champion Desert Christian (17-7) in the first round on Wednesday. Should the Pioneers advance, they will face No. 2 Flintridge Prep or Avalon.
Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville said he hopes his team’s tough schedule will play off in the playoffs.

“We’re battle tested,” said Baskerville, whose team advanced to last season’s division championship with LoVett. “We’ve played a very tough schedule. I think we have something like the third toughest schedule in the division.

“We know we’re going to be facing a tough team in the first round. But we’ve gone up against our share of tough teams this year and we’ve played in front of a lot of big crowds on the road.”

By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com

Taryn Nelson All-CIF!

December 16, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

taryn-all-cifBURBANK – The Burroughs High girls’ volleyball team made a surprising postseason showing by advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division II-A quarterfinals.

For Bellarmine-Jefferson, it made a predictable trek to the quarterfinals in Division IV-A, as the Guards advanced to the round of eight for the fifth straight season.

The teams also had something else in common when the All-CIF awards were released Monday. Both squads had first-team honorees, as Indians junior middle blocker Caitlin Cottrell made the Division II-A squad and Guards senior outside hitter Taryn Nelson garnered a place in Division IV-A.

Nelson was a driving force for a Bell-Jeff (17-10-1) team that captured its seventh consecutive Santa Cruz League championship and ran its league unbeaten streak to 52.

With injuries and other distractions plaguing Bell-Jeff throughout the season, Nelson proved to be the one constant. From one of its setters not being able to compete in Tuesday league games because of softball commitments, to losing starting outside hitter Mariah Bankhead during the regular season to an injury to seeing starting middle Briana Hilo sidelined with an injury in the playoffs, the Guards had to battle through their share of problems.

“Taryn was even injured herself and missed the first two games with a hurt ankle,” Bell-Jeff Coach Miguel Segura said. “With all that happened to us it was a real test for any captain this season, but Taryn came through and handled it.

“She was looking to get the ball on every set. And a lot of the times we gave her the ball. She was always willing to step up and take the swing when we needed it.”

As the team’s go-to offensive threat, it wasn’t uncommon for Nelson to be double-teamed, as opponents tried to stop her.

But Nelson proved she was a difficult player to naturalize. Behind a powerful outside shot and a potent serve, Nelson was named the Santa Cruz League Player of the Year. In addition to tallying 315 kills, she also had 89 aces and 282 digs.

Despite finishing third in the Pacific League, Burroughs (19-16) was able to step it up in the postseason and advance to the Division II-A quarterfinals.

Much of that success in the playoffs was due to fine play from Cottrell.

“She really improved from last year to his year and she’s worked hard to have that improvement,” Burroughs Coach Edwin Real said. “When the team does well the individual recognitions come through. It’s nice to see her be able to win this award.

“I don’t know if she knew it, but she was our go-to person when she was in the front row. We really rode her coattails in round one and round two of the playoffs. The others came through as well, but Caitlin had two very good matches in the playoffs. Even against a good team like Oxnard she was blocking the heck out of their best hitter.”

In the second-round match against Oxnard, Cottrell had 14 kills and five blocks.

Cottrell, an All-Pacific League first-team selection, averaged 12 kills and 1.2 aces a match.

Rishonda Napier Making Instant Impact!

November 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

ILLINOIS – Rishonda Napier, former Bell-Jeff basketball standout, is finding success during freshman season at Southern Illinois. The former Guards star has been getting playing time out of the gate in her first season on the collegiate level.

Napier made an instant impact in her first college action Nov. 2, as the Salukis earned an 82-57 win over Central Methodist in an exhibition game at home. Napier poured in 20 points in the win. In addition to leading the team in scoring,

Napier also dished out nine assists with just three turnovers and pulled down seven rebounds. She also led the team with four three-pointers on eight attempts.

“I think she is going to be a special player,” Southern Illinois Coach Missy Tiber said on the university’s website. “She has a good basketball mind and she is a good student, too. She’s very smart. I think she is going to have a great career here with us.”

In an exhibition game Nov. 6 at home, Napier played well and helped Southern Illinois get past Missouri-St. Louis, 72-48. Napier tallied eight points and chipped in six assists in the win.

Napier tallied six points, four rebounds and two steals Tuesday in a 56-46 loss at home to Central Arkansas in the Salukis’ season-opener.

By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com

Game Preview – Bell-Jeff vs St. Anthony!

October 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

BELL-JEFF VS. ST. ANTHONY

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Memorial Field (Burroughs High).

RECORDS: The Guards are 2-5, 0-1 in the Santa Fe League; the Saints are 5-2, 1-1.

LAST WEEK: Bell-Jeff lost to Salesian, 48-0; St. Anthony defeated St. Monica, 16-13.

OUTLOOK: Bell-Jeff was dealt a big blow earlier this week when it was determined that starting sophomore quarterback Johnathan Porter was lost for the season with a broken hand. Porter, a transfer from Golden Valley, passed for nearly 1,000 yards for Bell-Jeff.

The quarterback injured his hand in a nonleague game against Malibu on Oct. 5. “It had been hurting him for a while and he went to get it checked by a doctor and they said he had a break in the small bone at the bottom of his hand,” said Bell-Jeff Coach David Machuca, who is in his first year.

“They are going to have to cast the hand and eventually he’s going to have to have surgery.”

Machuca said the loss is a big blow to the team.

“It’s a huge loss for us,” he said. “Johnathan was playing well for us and he did a real good job at reading defenses.”

With Porter out, Machuca said freshman Jonathan Gales will get the start at quarterback against St. Anthony. On the bright side for Bell-Jeff is that Machuca said starting running back Josh Martinez will be back in the lineup after missing last week’s game.

St. Anthony had to go to double overtime to defeat St. Monica last week. The team has an outstanding running back in senior Latrell Flowers, who has rushed for 1,018 yards and has scored 11 touchdowns.

SOMETHING INTERESTING: The Guards rank last in the league in points allowed, giving up an average of 45.6 a game.

Jeff Tulley

Napier Goes From Hollywood To The Hardwood!

September 27, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Southern Illinois University – Not many college basketball players have an entry on the Internet Movie Database, commonly known as IMDB.

Rishonda Napier has one.

Before she ever got in a layup line, the Saluki freshman was memorizing lines.

“My brother and I were always good at public speaking and doing things in church,” Napier said. “When my brother was seven, he told my dad he wanted to be an actor. Him being the older brother and me wanting to be just like him, I wanted to do everything he did.”

When Napier was eight years old, her family moved from Florida to Burbank, Calif. to pursue her brother Ryan’s acting dream. Both Napier kids ended up getting involved in acting. Rishonda made appearances in two episodes of “ER,” one episode of “Malcolm in the Middle” and a short film called “Gift for the Living.”

It didn’t take Rishonda long, however, to realize her interests laid elsewhere.

“Basketball is the reason I stopped acting,” Napier said. “I played my first basketball game, and I decided that was what I wanted to do.”

Napier first started playing basketball in the Burbank, Calif., parks and recreation league. She was eventually picked up by an AAU team and started playing basketball in school as well. Napier played point guard for the first time during her freshman year of high school.

“I played the two until I was in high school. That is when I realized that I was a little vertically challenged. Point guard was the best fit for me,” Napier said. “ I believe it is one of the hardest jobs on the floor, but it is the most important.”

Napier helped Bellarmine-Jefferson High school to the California Division V state championship as a freshman and earned First-Team All-State honors three times during her career in addition to being a McDonald’s All-American nominee her senior season. Additionally, she graduated near the top of her class with a 4.0 GPA.

Southern signed Napier in the late signing period last spring. SIU coach Missy Tiber said Napier’s basketball talents weren’t the only thing that caught her attention.

“Rishonda is a mature young lady with an engaging personality,” Tiber said. “We are very excited to have her as part of our program.”

Though SIU had an All-MVC point guard a year ago in Valley Freshman of the Year Cartaesha Macklin, it is possible that SIU’s best lineup may be to have Napier run the point with Macklin at the two.

“Rishonda has been extremely impressive during preseason workouts,” Tiber said. “She is a true point guard and has the ability to score the basketball in many ways.”

By Bill Ford/Saluki Media Services

Football Preview Week #2

September 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

BELL-JEFF VS. BISHOP MONTGOMERY

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday.

WHERE: Bishop Montgomery.

RECORDS: The Guards are 1-1; the Knights are 2-0.

LAST WEEK: Bell-Jeff lost to Brentwood, 30-8; Bishop Montgomery defeated Contreras, 24-16.

OUTLOOK: After dominating in a win against Monroe a week earlier, the Guards had problems revving up their offense in the loss to Brentwood. Bell-Jeff’s lone touchdown came when quarterback Johnathan Porter hooked up with tight end Andrew Belsito for a four-yard scoring pass. Bell-Jeff first-year Coach David Machuca wanted to play tough teams in higher divisions in nonleague competition this season. His squad will get that opportunity against the Knights. Bishop Montgomery has a solid running back in Michael Turner. However, Turner didn’t play last week because of an injured ankle. The Knights also have a reliable quarterback in Louie Soto.

SOMETHING INTERESTING: Bishop Montgomery has benefited from the transfer of a group players from St. Bernard after the Vikings’ program was discontinued.

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

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

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