BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's note: Coaches were asked between Dec. 5-11 to rank their league, but were not allowed to rank their own team. Tallying was done on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis.
Southwest Yosemite League
Coaches' poll: 1. Stockdale 25 (5); 2. Centennial 20 (1); t3. Independence 14; t3. Bakersfield 14; 5. Liberty 12; 6. Frontier 5
Notes: Centennial won its season-opening tournament, beating Bakersfield in the championship. Stockdale hosts a tournament next week that includes BHS, Independence, Frontier, Ridgeview and Garces. ... The Mustangs lost Alyssa Shannon but get back Jazmin Miller, who missed the entire 2011-12 season with a torn ACL. She led the team in scoring in Shannon's absence the year before. ... If you're looking for a good young team, check out Centennial. Rhiana Dougan and Alyssa Gonzales were the league's co-freshmen of the year last year, and both are Golden Hawks. So is Mallory Dawson, another sophomore, plus talented freshman Taylor Madden. ... Jazzmin Sanders and Erin Cantrell return in the paint for Division III section champ Independence, but the Falcons need to replace a lot of experience on the perimeter. They hope Kennedy Sweet can take on a bigger role. ... Bakersfield coach Jimmy Henry hopes returning starters Tiana Henry, Marissa Jones and Sienna Figueroa can lead the Drillers to the top of the league. Defense is a strength. ... Liberty has taken its lumps against a tough schedule early on, but the Patriots have potential with athletic six-footer Tyler Herring and Nikki Bragg patrolling the paint and sophomore Kennedy Nielson showing promise on the perimeter. ... Frontier lost its tallest and best player, Rosebrooke Hunt, to graduation. Still, the Titans are scrappy defensively and feature a balanced offense with Marissa Moreno and Katy Beechinor the standouts.
Quotable: "I think we're going to make some noise. Stockdale is always the team to beat, but we think we'll be OK. It's my third year, and we're starting to see some good things. We're pretty young still, but we're playing with a lot of confidence."
-- Liberty coach Terence Hubbert
Southeast Yosemite League
Coaches' poll: 1. Garces 24 (4); 2. Tehachapi 20 (1); 3. North 16 (1); 4. Foothill 14; 5. Highland 11; 6. East 5
Notes: For the third consecutive year, Garces has no more than eight players on its varsity roster, but for the third straight year, all eight are talented. Rachol West will do most of the scoring, but her little sister, freshman Celeste West, is 6-foot-2 and already a big factor in the paint. ... According to MaxPreps, Celeste West leads all freshmen nationally in rebounding at 15.2 rpg. ... Tehachapi comes over to the SEYL after a runner-up finish in the South Sequoia League. Rheanna Cowee and Danielle Simpson are do-it-all type players and have enough size to contend with the West sisters in what should be two important Garces-Tehachapi matchups. ... North lost nine seniors from a co-championship team a year ago, but coach Kendra Weisser will teach the new Stars her aggressive, full-court defensive style. McKenzie Talbot is a long-range threat and Kayla Shadden exemplifies North's hard-nosed style. ... Perhaps no team in Kern County will feel a graduation loss like Foothill will feel that of LaShay Alexander, a first-team All-Area player who carried the Trojans to a 12-11 season. This year's Foothill team features just four juniors or seniors. ... Four different Highland players are averaging at least six points for first-year coach Sarah Porter, who led the frosh-soph team to a winning record last year. ... Ed Quijalvo steps into a head coaching role for the first time at East, where the longtime assistant is optimistic about the Blades' chances to be more competitive. East is 7-61 over the past four-plus seasons, but Grijalvo hopes improvement will come on the defensive end and with 3-point specialist Brooke Gutierrez.
Quotable: "We're all a little weary of Garces and Tehachapi. The rest of us would like to see us challenge for that two spot, I think."
-- Highland coach Sarah Porter
South Yosemite League
Coaches' poll: 1. Ridgeview 16 (4); t2. West 10; t2. Golden Valley 10 (1); t2. Mira Monte 10; 5. South 4.
Notes: Erica McCall is the show-stopper, but when Ridgeview is really playing well, perimeter shooters like Alex Green and Mikaela Gonzalez can bury teams when they have to double- or triple-team McCall. If they don't, McCall is capable of posting up or taking almost any defender off the dribble. And running the show this year is talented Garces transfer Candace Wilkerson. Good luck, defenses. ... Wolf Pack coach Michael Martin said Ridgeview's move up to Division II might actually align the stars for a state-tournament run, because Division III contains so many private-school powers. ... If it weren't for McCall and Ridgeview, we would be talking about Golden Valley's as the frontcourt to watch in the SYL. The Bulldogs feature two double-double threats in Mariah Cheatham and Nitoyra Bone. If Golden Valley's guards hold their own, this is a team with a shot in Division III. ... Mira Monte lost seven seniors from last year's team but does return point guard Windy Jimenez, a steady player who stays on the court at almost all times. Amanda Reyes will benefit from Jimenez's distribution. ... On the other side of the experience spectrum is West, which has all but two seniors, including post player Antwanae Porter. The Vikings went 3-5 in the league a year ago but could be on the rise. ... First-year coach Jason Oliver said his main focus this year will look to make South competitive after a 1-19 season last year. The Rebels have already won three games.
Quotable: "To be honest with you, the only thing I hate about having a good team the past two years is that it's in the time of Erica McCall. And when you put a Candace Wilkerson and Alex Green -- who would be the best or second-best player on almost every other team in town -- with her? That's the team to beat right there."
-- Golden Valley coach Curt Wilson
South Sequoia League
Coaches' poll: 1. Chavez 35 (5); 2. Shafter 32 (2); 3. Taft 22; 4. Arvin 21; 5. Bakersfield Christian 14; 6. Wasco 13; 7. Kennedy 10
Notes: Four returning starters, including two seniors and three third-year varsity players, have Chavez thinking big early in the year. The Titans moved in from the East Yosemite League, where they were 6-20 over the past two seasons, but they're already 9-2 with victories over Visalia-Mount Whitney, Fresno-Central, Delano and Fresno-Hoover. ... The more traditional favorite would be Shafter, which returns 20-point-per-game scorer Hannah Ramirez and third-year varsity player Brittany Fowler, plus post player Kendyl Estes. Shafter coach Kevin Edgmon said that with Ridgeview up to Division II, his team's realistic goal is to be playing at 2 p.m. March 2 in Fresno's Selland Arena -- that would be the D-III girls section championship. ... Taft has also started hot at 12-2, with post Kennedy Kunce averaging a double-double. Coach Chuck Hagstrom is also using an aggressive half-court defense that has allowed only 26.1 ppg thus far. ... Arvin loses Claesy Tarver but returns six seniors, including Catherine Valadez, who is just back from an ACL injury. Until she regains form, guard Luz Morales will carry the load offensively. ... Kern County coaching legend Frank Thiessen has started his second stint with the Bakersfield Christian team and will rely on a deep team that features sophomore forward Olivia Espinoza. ... First-year coach Sarah Ortiz-Unruh has Wasco off to a 5-5 start behind point guard Emily Esnoz and center Karyssa Shugart. ... Kennedy will be led by Carmen Ontiveros and Aliyah Usochu, athletic players who will be counted on to do a bit of everything.
Quotable: "Chavez is piling up wins, Wasco's gotten better, Taft has gotten better, Arvin's rebuilding but still good, Bakersfield Christian has gotten better. We're not taking anybody lightly."
-- Shafter coach Kevin Edgmon