More Girls BB State Players of Year

Archbishop Mitty of San Jose sophomore forward Haley Jones emerged as a leading player for one of the nation’s top teams. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Some of these selections this year were among the most difficult ever, including sophomore and freshman. Not so much for some of the CIF divisional honorees, especially D5 where Kayla Tahaafe of Eastside Prep repeated. At least one school, Vanden of Fairfield, also was able to add a player of the year selection to a previously announced coaching honor.

For official writeup on the 2016-17 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year, CLICK HERE.

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Congratulations to these girls players for being selected as a Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year. Writeups by Mark Tennis & Paul Muyskens. Stay tuned for the upcoming release of the 38th annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Teams. Here is a complete list of our girls basketball individual honorees for the 2016-17 season:

Photo: Stockton Record (

Aquira De Costa (St. Mary’s, Stockton)

Although she missed a month of the season with torn meniscus in one knee and St. Mary’s ended up with an uncharacteristic 10 losses, no other juniors did enough to dislodge her from her front-running status in that group. She thus follows up being the State Freshman of the Year and State Sophomore of the Year with top honors statewide for juniors.

De Costa, considered the No. 6 overall junior recruit nationally by ESPNW and No. 1 as a wing, averaged 18.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game. She came back for a couple of section playoff games and two in the NorCal Open Division, but wasn’t at 100 percent and didn’t reach her scoring average. DeCosta had two of her best outings in close losses by the Rams to elite opponents, such as 25 points and 17 rebounds in a 63-58 loss to eventual Open Division state champ Clovis West plus 34 points in a 71-69 loss to state-ranked Carondelet of Concord. She also had 28 points and 17 rebounds in a win vs. state-ranked Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco.

This summer, Aquira will compete for the USA U18 3×3 national team at the world championships. She was on Team USA’s U17 national squad last summer. With one more year to go for St. Mary’s, De Costa is considering a bushel of college offers, including those from UCLA, Baylor, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington and Louisville. She is the third State Junior of the Year from St. Mary’s, following Jacki Gemelos for 2005 and Chelsea Gray in 2009. Both of those girls went on to be Ms. Basketball as seniors.

Last 10 State Juniors of the Year: 2016 Destiny Littleton (La Jolla Bishop’s); 2015 Sabrina Ionescu (Orinda Miramonte); 2014 Katie Lou Samuelson (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2013 Jordin Canada (Los Angeles Windward); 2012 Kelsey Plum (La Jolla Country Day); 2011 Aly Beebe (Santa Maria St. Joseph); 2010 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2009 Chelsea Gray (Stockton St. Mary’s); 2008 Layshia Clarendon (San Bernardino Cajon); 2007 Jasmine Dixon (Long Beach Poly).

Haley Jones (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose)

Last year as a freshman, Jones was basically a close runner-up as the State Frosh POY to Los Angeles Windward’s Charisma Osborne. This season, those two were neck-and-neck again, both were considered Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalists, but this time it’s Jones edging Osborne.

While Osborne had a higher scoring average and led Windward to the CIF Division I state title, Mitty being an Open Division team that also was No. 1 in the state until the fourth quarter of the Open Division state final was an important factor. Jones led the Monarchs in scoring (15.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg) and also was a ball-handler in some situations. Jones also averaged nearly 20 ppg when the Monarchs won the Iolani Classic in Hawaii (which included eventual Open Division champ Clovis West and CIFSS Open champ Long Beach Poly). Plus, as head coach Sue Phillips noted, “Haley regularly guards the other team’s best offensive/leading scorer. We can have her guard positions one through five.”

Jones, who is generally considered one of the top 10 sophomore college prospects in the nation, already has been named the South Bay/Peninsula Player of the Year by Bay Area Preps. In the long career of Phillips, this is her first and Mitty’s first State Sophomore of the Year. The last one from the CIF Central Coast Section was Kristin Clark from Monta Vista of Cupertino in 1993.

Last 10 State Sophomores of the Year: 2016 Aquira DeCosta (Stockton St. Mary’s); 2015 Destiny Littleton (La Jolla Bishop’s); 2014 Sabrina Ionescu (Orinda Miramonte); 2013 Katie Lou Samuelson (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2012 Jordin Canada (Los Angeles Windward); 2011 Kelsey Plum (La Jolla Country Day); 2010 Aly Beebe (Santa Maria St. Joseph); 2009 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2008 Chelsea Gray (Stockton St. Mary’s); 2007 Christina Marinacci (Tustin Foothill).

Breanne Ha (Los Osos, Rancho Cucamonga)

This category was another one of the toughest to decide. Last summer, incoming phenom Te-Hina Paopao at La Jolla Country Day was supposed to be the rage of Southern California, but we never got to see that after she tore her ACL in October. She returned for a handful of playoff games, but didn’t play nearly enough to be the State Frosh POY.

And since this is not a recruiting list ranking of top prospects based on what happened last summer, we had to look at ninth-graders who made major contributions to top teams. We settled on Ha even though we know there are others higher on recruiting lists.

In the CIF Division IV state final vs. West Campus of Sacramento, Ha had 24 points for Los Osos in a 63-55 loss to the Warriors. She led a comeback in the third quarter that tied the score heading to the final quarter. But that wasn’t her only big outing late in the season. Ha also had 20 points when the Grizzlies beat Village Christian of Sun Valley for the SoCal D4 title and had 25 in a regional playoff win vs. Rancho Bernardo of San Diego. In games against state powerhouse Etiwanda, although Los Osos lost both games, Ha had more than respectable totals as a freshman with 20 and 19 points.

For the season, Ha averaged nearly 17 ppg. She already has been named All-CIF Southern Section for her division and the Newcomer of the Year by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. The last Inland Empire/Inland Valley State Frosh of the Year was Chloe Wells of Fontana A.B. Miller in 2007. There has been a few others, too, most notably Diana Taurasi of Chino Hills Don Lugo for 1997.

Last 10 State Freshmen of the Year: 2016 Charisma Osborne (Los Angeles Windward); 2015 Aquira De Costa (Stockton St. Mary’s); 2014 Destiny Littleton (La Jolla Bishop’s); 2013 DiJonae Carrington (San Diego Horizon Christian); 2012 Katie Lou Samuelson (Huntington Beach Edison); 2011 Joesetta Fatuesi (San Jose Presentation); 2010 Kendall “K.C.” Waters (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2009 Jordan Adams (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2008 Justine Hartman (Brea Olinda); 2007 Chloe Wells (Fontana A.B. Miller).

Destiny Littleton (Bishop’s, La Jolla) 5-9 Sr.

In previous years, Bishop’s was considered Division V for the division in which we’d be choosing its players and that’s why just two years ago our Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year was the D5 player of the year. With Bishop’s going up to the SoCal Open Division this year, however, Littleton also would qualify for the Open/D1 player of the year pick. You have to go back to 1987 for Terri Mann (Point Loma) to find the last San Diego girl who was the D1 state player of the year.

Last 10 State D1 Players of the Year: 2016 Valerie Higgins (West Hills Chaminade); 2015 Katie Lou Samuelson (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2014 Katie Lou Samuelson (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2013 Katie Lou Samuelson (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2012 Nirra Fields (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2011 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2010 Sara James (El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge); 2009 Layshia Clarendon (San Bernardino Cajon); 2008 Jasmine Dixon (Long Beach Poly); 2007 Jasmine Dixon (Long Beach Poly).

Photo: Willie Eashman.

Julia Blackshell-Fair (Vanden, Fairfield)
5-10 Sr.

Yes, we do like to spread around coaching and player honors as much as possible, but in the end just couldn’t do that for this division as Blackshell-Fair joins previously honored head coach Allison Johnson as the D2 player of the year.

Blackshell-Fair was at her best in the fourth quarter of Vanden’s 64-61 win over Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the CIF D2 state final. She fueled a furious rally from a 17-point deficit, coming up with a huge steal and three-point play in the game’s final minute. Blackshell-Fair had 20 points in that game and earlier in the playoffs had a season-high 28 points in a win vs. St. Francis of Sacramento.

For the season, the 5-foot-10 Blackshell-Fair excelled with 16.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 4.0 steals per game. She also had 28 points in a win vs. Modesto Christian.

Headed to the University of Houston, Julia is the first-ever D2 state player of the year from Solano County. She’s also the first from any division since Alex Cowling of Vallejo St. Patrick-St. Vincent for Division IV in 2008.

Last 11 State D2 Players of the Year: 2016 Kayla Washington (San Bernardino Cajon); 2015 Sydney Raggio (San Francisco St. Ignatius); 2014 Natalie Romeo (Concord Carondelet); 2013 Erica McCall (Bakersfield Ridgeview); 2012 Hannah Huffman (Concord Carondelet); 2011 Ali Gibson (Stockton St. Mary’s); 2010 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2009 Jonae Ervin (Brea Olinda); 2008 Atonye Nyingfifa (Redondo Beach Redondo Union); 2007 Jeanette Pohlen (Brea Olinda); 2006 Jayne Appel (Concord Carondelet).

Photo: Harold Abend.

Haley Van Dyke (Campolindo, Moraga)
5-11 Jr.

This division might as well be called the East Bay division as it relates to State POYs since Van Dyke is the sixth one we’ve picked in a row from that part of the CIF North Coast Section. The last three, of course, went to Sabrina Ionescu of Miramonte, the rival school of Van Dyke’s team at Campolindo.

Not even Ionescu had a 46-point game in a NorCal regional final, which is what Van Dyke did in leading the Cougars past St. Mary’s of Berkeley 78-56 in the NorCal D3 championship. That’s, in fact, a record for any NorCal regional final. Van Dyke also had 20 rebounds in the same game and ended with averages of 24 points and 15.4 rebounds per game. She averaged 27.8 ppg in her last eight games alone.

Although Campo fell short in the D3 state final to Rosary of Fullerton, Van Dyke already has been named the East Bay Player of the Year by the Alameda Newspaper Group and the S.F. Metro East Bay Player of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Last 10 State D3 Players of the Year: 2016 Sabrina Ionescu (Orinda Miramonte); 2015 Sabrina Ionescu (Orinda Miramonte); 2014 Sabrina Ionescu (Orinda Miramonte); 2013 Oderah Chidom (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2012 Kendall “K.C.” Waters (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2011 Aly Beebe (Santa Maria St. Joseph); 2010 Chelsea Gray (Stockton St. Mary’s); 2009 Chelsea Gray (Stockton St. Mary’s); 2008 Jazmine Jackson (San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral); 2007 Vickie Baugh (Sacramento).

Photo: Willie Eashman.

Kiara Jefferson (West Campus, Sacramento)
5-9 Jr.

She may not have been the leading scorer for West Campus’ state title team in this division, but Jefferson was the catalyst all season and is considered one of the top Class of 2018 point guard prospects on the West Coast. For those reasons, as well as scoring 24 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the 63-55 D4 title game win against Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga, she’s the D4 State POY.

Jefferson had her season high before the state final of 23 points in a game against state powerhouse St. Mary’s of Stockton. She averaged 10.6 points with nearly five assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game.

There hasn’t been a D4 State POY from the Sacramento metro area since Autumn Matthews from Golden Sierra of Garden Valley in 1998.

Last 10 State D4 Players of the Year: 2016 Minyon Moore (Richmond Salesian); 2015 Kennedy Burke (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2014 Jordin Canada (Los Angeles Windward); 2013 Kelsey Plum (La Jolla Country Day); 2012 Kelsey Plum (La Jolla Country Day); 2011 Imani Stafford (Los Angeles Windward); 2010 Brandi Henton (Modesto Christian); 2009 Gizelle Studevent (La Jolla Bishop’s); 2008 Alex Cowling (Vallejo St. Patrick-St. Vincent); 2007 Nikki Speed (Los Angeles Marlborough).

Photo: Willie Eashman.

Kayla Tahaafe (Eastside College Prep, E. Palo Alto) 5-9 Jr.

This was obviously the easiest pick of the bunch. Tahaafe was Eastside’s leading player as a sophomore when the Panthers won the D5 state title and she was the D5 state player of the year. This year, she may not have led the team in scoring in every game, particularly the state final when teammate Zion Gabriel made a record eight 3-pointers, but there was little doubt she was once again Eastside’s top player.

For the season, Tahaafe hit for 14.3 ppg plus 7.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists. She already has been selected to the All-S.F. Bay Area team by the Alameda News Group. Tahaafe became Eastside’s first State POY last season, a list that previously had been dominated by league rival Pinewood of Los Altos Hills. Pinewood has now become a perennial NorCal Open Division team and next year it’s expected that Eastside College Prep will be playing in a much higher CIF division. It may not be in the Open, but probably Division I since CIF Central Coast Section Open Division teams that don’t make it into the NorCal Open Division will no longer be able to drop back down to enrollment divisions.

Last 10 State D5 Players of the Year: 2016 Kayla Tahaafe (E. Palo Alto Eastside College Prep); 2015 Destiny Littleton (La Jolla Bishop’s); 2014 Marissa Hing (Los Altos Hills Pinewood); 2013 Kennedy Burke (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2012 Michelle Miller (Pasadena Poly); 2011 Haillie Eackles (Los Altos Hills Pinewood); 2010 Haillie Eackles (Los Altos Hills Pinewood); 2009 Shelly Gupilan (Burbank Bellarmine-Jefferson); 2008 Rachael Bilney (Ross Branson); 2007 Sami Field-Polisso (Los Altos Hills Pinewood).

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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