La Salle girls' basketball moves up with high expectations
Whether rebuilding or preparing for a title run, 2012-13 is a season of growth for Pasadena-area hoops programs.
Junior guard Kandyce Smith earned CIF Southern Section Division IV-A first-team honors after averaging 12.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.6 steals per game. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / November 23, 2012)
At La Salle High, the Lancers are hoping to cement a solid foundation that included a 20-8 record from last season, a co-Camino Real League championship and a quarterfinal berth in the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A playoffs.
“I’m looking for a lot from this team. We got moved up to Division IV-AA and the Del Rey League, but we’re still looking to be competitive with Windward, Serra and those schools,” La Salle Coach Kevin Cormier said. “The girls picked up some experience last year and now it’s time to see how the team does.”
La Salle has 12 returners from last year, including junior Kandyce Smith.
The guard earned CIF Southern Section Division IV-A first-team honors after averaging 12.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.6 steals per game.
“Kandyce Smith is our floor leader and point guard and almost was the league MVP last season,” Cormier said. “She’s one of many girls who are going to be big contributors this year.”
Also included among the expected contributors are senior sharp-shooter Sarah Kopcha (12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game), junior guard Brianna Rodriguez (4.3 points, 3.9 rebounds) and sophomore post player Sierra Bononi (6.3 points, 4.9 rebounds).
One newcomer to look out for is Christal Haynes, formerly of Alemany, who can play several positions.
One team La Salle may very well deal with in its new division come playoff time is reigning Pacific League champion Muir.
The Mustangs are simultaneously short and tall, with a roster of only eight players, three of which tower 5-foot-11 or higher.
“This is probably my tallest squad. We’ve got power, but we’re young,” Muir Coach Gary Johnson said. “We lost some key players and we might struggle early, but this is a team that can do well.”
Muir was hit hard with the defections of All-Area first-teamer Emoni Jackson (17.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.3 steals), who transferred to St. Bernard, and junior guard Jordan Jackson, who moved on to St. Anthony.
The losses coupled with a rare dearth of speed and an abundance of height means the Mustangs, who finished 27-4 and advanced to the Division IV-AA quarterfinals, will be less guard-oriented and more fixated with getting the ball into the paint, especially to 6-4 sophomore Channon Fluker.
“We’re not going to be that fast-guard, high-pressure teams of the past, but will consistently feed Channon,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working on the fundamentals with the other tall girls to take advantage of our size.”
Fluker will be flanked by 5-11 forwards Tierra Adams and Jasmine Harris with potential 5-10 Chy’annea Hodges playing guard.
“It’s an interesting team because they’re not loud or boisterous like Muir teams of the past. In fact, they’re quiet,” Johnson said. “I think once we get going, though, that will change.”
Muir’s main point of improvement will be guard play, where the Mustangs will hope for a floor general who can push the ball inside.
At Pasadena, the Bulldogs welcomed new coach Wil White, formerly of Blair, who took over for Wesley Stewart.
“I came back to Pasadena because this is a newsworthy school, a school that represents the entire city of Pasadena,” White said. “I look forward to the spotlight being on me. I eat that up. I want to bring Pasadena back up again.”