Camacho Resurrects Bell-Jeff!

March 19, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

It was only four years ago during the 2005-06 season that the Bell-Jeff of Burbank girls’ basketball team was in the second year of another pitiful season.

Bryan Camacho, head coach for the Guards during very successful seasons in 2003 and 2004, left to pursue a college coaching opportunity in Montana and things seemed to fall apart on the small campus just north of the 5 freeway.

However, Camacho returned for the 2007 season, built the program up and now has Bell-Jeff back on top, playing for the Division V state championship Friday at Arco Arena in Sacramento at 3:30 p.m. against Pinewood of Los Altos Hills.

Camacho led Bell-Jeff to the Southern Section Div. V-A championship this season and the Guards were runner-up in Div. IV-AA last year.

“Leaving was hard to do but it was a college opportunity that I felt I had to take,” Camacho said. “I didn’t want to look back and have any regrets that I didn’t try for the next level. I learned so many things in Montana and everything happens for a reason and now we get to play for a state championship.”

Camacho has been back for only three seasons, but he’s rebuilt the Guards in short order, taking a team that won only nine games combined in the two seasons he was gone to the brink of a state title.

“We have just been so fortunate to have great kids and great families,” Camacho said. “The kids and families have bought into the school and the program. We have been blessed and gotten some breaks here and there.”

Records are made to be broken

With a victory Friday, Bell-Jeff will break the school record for most wins in a season. The Guards are currently tied with the 1997 team, which won 33 games behind Jackie Johnson. This year’s team has already surpassed the ’97 team by reaching the state final. The ’97 fell one game short of the state final, losing to St. Bernard of Playa del Rey in the regional championship.

“We can’t worry about records right now,” Camacho said. “We are only focused on winning this game Friday. If that happens the record will take care of itself. Everything great comes with a victory Friday.”

More than basketball on the schedule, Bell-Jeff will mix business with pleasure on its trip up north.

While the Guards will be focused on the task at hand, the team also has a planned tour of the state capital Saturday.

The team will drive to San Francisco later that day, spend the night with relatives of Camacho’s family and tour the city Saturday night and Sunday morning before heading home.

“We are going all out on this trip,” Camacho said. “It is going to be a celebration of our season and the countless hours put in by the kids and staff and families. Everyone has sacrificed so much and we are going to finally let loose.”

Preparing for Pinewood

At this point in the season there is not a lot of teaching and new material implemented. Bell-Jeff is working on shooting, staying fresh and breaking down its opponent.

“We had a light walkthrough on Monday,” Camacho said. “We are really just doing a lot of shooting and taking these four days to really dissect Pinewood. They are a very good team and similar to us in a lot of ways. They can handle the ball, shoot and run its sets very well. We want to know their tendencies and their coaching tendencies in certain situations.”

By Jacob H. Pollon Special to the Daily News

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Bell-Jeff Is New Kid On Title Block!

March 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH — Guards making their first appearance in state championship game, while Pinewood has won three state championships.Not many teams have the chance to make history.

Not many teams have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.

Not many teams get to be the first.

The Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls’ basketball squad has the opportunity to do something no other program in the history of Burbank high school sports has been able to accomplish — win a team state championship.

The Guards will get the opportunity to do just that in the CIF State Basketball Division V Championship game at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Arco Arena in Sacramento.

“We are just so excited to be in this position,” Bell-Jeff Coach Bryan Camacho said. “The girls are excited and the whole school is abuzz about this game. It’s now just a matter of preparing and making all the arrangements.”

Winning a state championship, however, will likely take a concerted effort. The Guards (33-1) will be taking on Pinewood of Los Altos Hills in Santa Clara County, a team with a history of state crowns.

The Panthers (31-4), from the Central California Section, are the No. 2 seed from the Northern California Regional. Pinewood defeated No. 1-seeded Branson, 41-30, Saturday to win the regional championship.

“[Pinewood] not only won the [regional], but they beat a team that had won two straight state titles,” Camacho said.

Pinewood is no stranger to state-final competition. The team will be making its fourth appearance in the championship game, and it has captured three state titles (1999, 2005-06).

“This is the first time any team from our school has made it to the state championship,” Camacho said. “And although we’ve never been here before, I think our experience playing in big games against some tough teams this season will help us.”

The Panthers are led by senior Lindsay Nickel, who is the lone holdover from the team’s 2006 state championship team. Nickel, a 5-foot-11 center, averages 13.7 points and 6.1 rebounds a game.

The team also has a solid player in 5-8 guard Hailie Eackles, who averages 11 points, 7.1 rebounds and two steals a game.

“[Pinewood] is a team that likes to push up the ball and they play very good pressure defense,” Camacho said. “They are also very well coached. As far as the team makeup, they are very similar to us.

“They are a very good team and it should be an exciting game.”

The Panthers come into the game on a 21-game winning streak. Their last loss came Jan. 9 against San Jose Valley Christian, 50-34.

The Guards enter the game on a 19-game winning streak. Their 33 wins ties a school record and their only loss of the season came Dec. 30 against Montclair Prep, 63-62.

The team earned a spot in the title game by defeating No. 3 View Park Prep, 61-49, in the Southern California Regional Saturday at Cal State Fullerton.

It was the 26th time this season the Guards have scored at least 60 points in a game. The team has also scored at least 70 points 13 times and 80 points twice.

While Bell-Jeff averages 66.4 points a game, Pinewood averages 55.4. On defense, the Guards surrender an average of 42.3 points a game and the Panthers give up 35.1.

 

Bell-Jeff is been led all year by 5-9 senior guard Shelley Gupilan. The reigning All-Area Player of the Year is averaging nearly 20 points in the postseason.

“We just want to take advantage of this opportunity and give it everything that we’ve got,” Camacho said. “Not many teams get the chance to accomplish something like this.”

Story by – Jeff Tully

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CIF State Regional Finals!

March 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Please enjoy this collection of photos from the Bell-Jeff vs View Park Prep CIF State Regional Finals! Photos compliments of: Judy Daza! (Click on gallery name or arrows to view!)

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info:false; carousel:true; text:CIF State Div V Regional Champions; open:opened; links:false; margin:8; align:center;]

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More Than Just A Freshman!

March 14, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

BURBANK – Bell-Jeff’s Rishonda Napier has skills and talent that are rarely seen in a first-year player, but don’t call Rishonda Napier a freshman.

The word often congers up images of an athlete who is inexperienced, maybe naive and even a little wet behind the ears.

Although she is in her first season with the Bellarmine- Jefferson High girls’ basketball team, Napier is anything but a typical freshman.

“I don’t even consider myself a freshman,” said Napier, a 5-foot-6 point guard. “I like to call myself a ninth-grader instead.”  (click here for photos from state finals!)

Although she admits she gets butterflies before every game, Napier has proven to have nerves of steel this season for the Guards. Her pin-point shooting, torrid defense and solid hall-handling abilities have made her a starter.

The play of Napier is one of the reasons Bell-Jeff has advanced to the regional finals of the CIF State Basketball Division V Championships.

She also played an integral part in helping the Guards win the CIF Southern Section Division VA championship and a Santa Fe League crown.

Napier’s exploits this season haven’t been lost on Bell-Jeff Coach Bryan Camacho

“Rishonda brings a winning attitude to our team,” Camacho said. “She is a winner in the classroom, she’s a straight-A student, and she’s a two-time national champion. She just knows how to win.

“Another great thing about her is she loves to compete. She has a quiet confidence about her and she’s a great student of the game.”

Napier proved her worth Thursday in a second-round game in the state championship. Although she was knocked out of the game for a period of time with an injured knee, she came back to help spark the Guards to a 66-59 victory against Fresno Christian.

Napier paced the Guards with 21 points — including three three-pointers — and added five steals.

“I like to consider myself a big-time player,” she said. “Whenever there’s a big game, I always want to try and do my best. I just want to give the best effort in every game.”

Napier began playing basketball at age 8. Once she got her first taste of the game, she knew what was going to dominate the rest of her life.

She has gone on to win two national championships with her travel-ball team.

“I sleep with my basketball at night. That’s how much basketball means to me,” she said. “I just love the game so much; it’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

In her first season, Napier is averaging more than 15 points a game. She has proven to be tough to guard by opponents because of her versatility. Not only can she drain the three-pointer, but she is fearless around the basket, and doesn’t think twice about driving against much-taller players.

“She just has so much confidence,” Camacho said. “She is great with the ball, she can take it inside when she wants and she also has one of the best mid-range shots. She really can do it all.”

Napier said along with the talent on the team this season, with players like Shelley and Margeaux Gupilan, Julia Tani, Elizabeth Hawthorne and fellow freshman Jasmine Smith, the Guards have something else in their favor.

She said the squad is very tight and they love and respect one another.

“I don’t even consider these girls my teammates, they’re more like my sisters,” she said. “They are like my family. Everybody loves each other and everybody’s happy for each other. It’s just awesome.”

With Napier and her team one win away from playing for a state title, the focus is bringing hope the city’s first California championship.

“Winning would be so important, not just for me but for the school and our seniors. I would like to win it for them, they deserve it.”

Add modesty and selflessness to the qualities Napier possesses. Pretty advanced for a freshman.

Jeff Tully – Burbank Leader

Update:

The Bell-Jeff Lady Guards make school history by defeating View Park Prep 61-49 to capture the CIF Southern Region Division V State Championship.

This is Bell-Jeff’s first Regional State title.

The girls advance to the CIF California State Championship game in Sacramento on Friday March 20, 2009 @ 3:30 pm.

GO GUARDS!

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