With great pleasure, here are the leading players for the 35th annual Cal-Hi Sports Girls Basketball All-State Teams. These 10 include many who were finalists to be the Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year. They are selected regardless of year in school or CIF division and represent some of the top teams in the nation.
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2017 CAL-HI SPORTS ALL-STATE
ELITE GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAMS
FIRST TEAM OVERALL
G – Sarah Bates (Clovis West, Fresno) 5-9, Sr.
There was little doubt the top team in the state had to have a representative on the First Team, and some years there have been two as was the case last season. However, with one of the most well-balanced CIF top division state championship teams ever, who that representative should be really didn’t emerge until the CIF Open Division state title game when the UC Santa Barbara-bound Bates turned in a second half performance in the Golden Eagles’ 44-40 victory over Archbishop Mitty that will be remembered for quite some time. She’s not a prototypical point guard or shooting guard but she can handle the ball and shoots well, and is a lockdown defender. In the Mitty victory, which was an old-fashioned defensive battle, she only had 12 points but it was game high and at one stretch in the fourth quarter Bates scored 11 straight points. She also had a co-high 10 points in the CIF Southern Regional Open title game against Long Beach Poly and a team high 17 points against Poly in the semifinals of the Iolani Classic in Hawaii.
G – Julia Blackshell-Fair (Vanden, Fairfield) 5-10, Sr.
The Vanden program had been solid but never reached the heights it did until this University of Houston-bound combo guard who can also go inside arrived four years ago. She was somewhat known around the state but it was in Sacramento at the Golden 1 Center where her stellar career culminated in an unbelievable performance against Santa Ana Mater Dei in the Vikings’ 64-61 victory in the CIF Division II state championship. With Vanden trailing 58-41 early in the fourth quarter, Blackshell-Fair took over and finished with a double-double 20 points and 21 rebounds with eight assists and five steals. Blackshell-Fair had 12 points and seven rebounds during a 23-3 run to close out the game and in a fourth quarter that saw Vanden outscore Mater Dei 26-6. With Vanden trailing 61-60 with 20 seconds left and Mater Dei trying to play keep away, Blackshell-Fair picked off an errant pass and drove the lane and drew contact as she flipped the ball up and in off the glass was fouled to complete a 3-point play that gave Vanden a 63-61 lead with 11.2 seconds remaining. She then proceeded to steal the ball off the inbounds, was fouled, and made one of two free-throws to provide the Vikings’ final margin of victory. On the season, Blackshell-Fair averaged 16.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 4.0 steals per game in leading Vanden to a 31-5 season.
P – Ayanna Clark (Long Beach Poly) 6-2, Jr.
The USC-committed post, who sat out a year but returned to Poly last season where she played her freshman year on the 2014 CIF Open Division state champions, is arguably the top big girl in the state since she primarily does her best work on both offense and defense in the paint. Last season, she was in the Elite group as well as All-State Junior First Team. Clark has been a double-double machine all year and finished with per game averages of 15.6 points and 9.8 rebounds, and those are impressive numbers on a team with nine girls averaging five points per game and 10 girls over three rebounds. The USC-verballed McDonald’s All-American and Long Beach Press Telegram Co Player of the Year with teammate Jasmine Jones is not only the top post in the state but ESPN has her as the No. 1 senior center in the nation and the No. 18 player overall. Clark stamped herself for a great career when she had 19 points her freshman season in Poly’s 2014 CIF Open Division state championship victory over Richmond Salesian that made her a serious candidate for State Freshman of the Year.
W – Aquira DeCosta (St. Mary’s, Stockton) 6-2, Jr.
Another repeater from the elite group of the top 10 last season didn’t make the eight finalists for Ms. Basketball this season but that was only because she missed nine games with a knee injury and St. Mary’s got knocked out of the playoffs. She was still the State Junior of the Year after snagging Freshman and Sophomore of the Year previously, and looking at what she did this season on a Rams’ team decimated by injuries there was no question she was one of the next two picks after the first eight. DeCosta, who was on the USA U16 National Team last year, will play with Destiny Littleton in Chengdu, China with her Bounce Back team on June 28-July 2 for the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Cup 2017, and she will be one of two juniors on the four-girl team. This past season the ESPN No. 1 wing and No. 5 junior player overall had numbers that were as good as anyone on the First Team that played against primarily Open Division level competition. DeCosta averaged a double-double 18.0 points and 12.5 rebounds. Before she was injured, DeCosta had 23 points, 18 rebounds and five steals against nationally-ranked Maryland Riverdale Baptist in the semifinals of the Nike TOC and in the finals she had 25 points and 14 rebounds with five steals in a loss to state No. 1 Clovis West.
W – Haley Jones (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose) 6-1, Soph.
The State Sophomore of the Year who barely edged out Charisma Osborne of Windward in that choice is one of the nation’s top recruits for the sophomore class with ESPN ranking her as the No. 2 wing and No. 6 overall. On a team very similar to Clovis West that has 5-6 girls that can lead the team in scoring and rebounding it was Jones that led in both categories with per game averages of 15.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. She is also a lockdown defender and was almost always given the assignment by head coach Sue Phillips of guarding the opposing team’s best player against a schedule of nationally-ranked opponents. Because she had to do the bulk of the ball-handling in the CIF Open Division title-game 44-40 loss to Clovis West she had more turnovers than Phillips would have liked to see, but she was also the only player in the game to register a double-double after finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds. In the NorCal Open title game victory over Cardinal Newman, Jones had 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. She also had several other solid double-double outings, including 20 points and 10 rebounds against Oakland Bishop O’Dowd. Jones has several offers, including being asked to pre-qualify for Stanford.
G – Destiny Littleton (Bishop’s, La Jolla) 5-9 Sr.
The Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year, McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Game participant will cap her high school career by heading to Chengdu, China with her Bounce Back team on June 28-July 2 for the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Cup 2017 along with fellow First Team selection Aquira DeCosta where they will represent USA Basketball after she was named MVP playing for Bounce Back last month at the USA Basketball 3×3 U18 National Tournament in Colorado Springs. The State Freshman, Sophomore and Junior of the year also leaves high school with a wheelbarrow full of records including being the all-time California scoring queen for a career with 4,300 points and a season with 1,366 points – and she did it playing the last six weeks of the season with multiple nagging injuries that prevented her from practicing. The recent Texas-commit also finishes No. 9 all time nationally in career scoring on the list compiled by the National Federation of High School Associations. This past season she was the first girl in state history to ever average 40 points in a season after averaging a double-double 42.7 points and 10.9 rebounds with 5.0 assists and 3.4 steals per game in leading Bishop’s into the second round of the CIF Southern Regional Open Division Playoffs. Littleton was also selected to the Best of the Best All-State First Team last season and besides the 3×3 has played on the five-on-five USA National Team.
G – Charisma Osborne (Windward, Los Angeles) 5-8, So.
After being named State Freshman of the Year last season, she was nosed out by Haley Jones for sophomore honors but was still one of two sophomores along with Jones to be named a Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist, and with that comes a spot on the First Team. Osborne was the choice over Ayanna Clark of Long Beach Poly as the Los Angeles Times Player of the Year and that is also a huge honor for a sophomore. She came up huge in the Wildcats’ 61-43 Southern Regional Division I title game victory over Ventura when she poured in 35 points. In the 53-41 CIF Division I title-game victory over Sacramento McClatchy, Osborne had a game-high 26 points with eight rebounds and four steals. On the season, she averaged 20.5 points per game and made 88 three-pointers. Osborne already has offers from Cal, UCLA and USC with tons more expected to come.
F – Khayla Rooks (Mission Hills, San Marcos) 6-1, Jr.
The fourth girl from last season’s First Team to repeat this year helped put Mission Hills on the girls basketball map in California with four consecutive CIF San Diego Section top division titles. The Washington-bound ESPN No. 22 ranked senior forward had to deal with the passing of her father last summer whom she was close to, Sean Rooks, a standout at Arizona before spending 12 years in the NBA, and it took its toll on her. Even so, the powerfully-built Rooks persevered and led Mission Hills to the CIF San Diego Section Open Division title and into the second round of the CIF Southern Regional Open Division playoffs before she finished her high school career with 18 points and 14 rebounds in a loss to Long Beach Poly. On the season, Rooks averaged 21 points, 14 rebounds and five assists per game.
G – Kianna Smith (Troy, Fullerton) 6-0, Sr.
Another of the Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalists was also a McDonald’s All-American and will be taking her game to Cal this fall where she was an early signer. The long and athletic combo guard averaged 21.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists and 2.6 steals per game but it was her performance down the stretch that made her a finalist for Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year and earned her a spot on the Best of the Best First Team. After getting 17 points in a CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinal loss to Long Beach Poly, the Warriors drew Clovis West in the first round of the CIF Southern Regional Open Division and Smith was a huge reason Troy gave the eventual state champions all they could handle in a 68-61 defeat where they were in the game almost until the end. She finished with 22 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals. Smith was the epitome of consistency and although she never had more than 28 points in a game Orange County Register Player of the Year played all 28 games for the 20-8 Warriors and was in double-figure scoring every game.
F – IImar’I Thomas (Sacred Heart Cathedral, San Francisco) 6-1, Sr.
To say that the Cincinnati-bound Thomas was a one girl wrecking crew is a bit of an understatement. The San Francisco Chronicle Metro Player of the Year and SportsStars Northern California Player of the Year was virtually unstoppable and that was on a team where she was the focus of double and triple-teaming of teams in an Irish schedule that according to the MaxPreps computer was the toughest of any girls basketball team in the nation. The fact she averaged 25.0 points and 13.4 rebounds against that type of schedule is amazing. Like Aquira DeCosta, she fell just short of being a Ms. Basketball finalist but there was no question she was deserving of being a First Team selection. She was Third Team All-State last season after leading Sacred Heart Cathedral to the CIF Division III state championship and early on stamped herself as a first-teamer when she stole the show from the locals at the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 tournament. The double-double machine that SportStars called a “versatile beast” and rightfully so was unstoppable in San Diego. She had 15 points and 17 rebounds in a surprisingly easy 59-28 semifinal victory over perennial Colorado power Lakewood, and in the title game she outplayed Khayla Rooks and earned MVP honors after going for 30 points and 14 rebounds in a 78-75 overtime victory against Mission Hills. Thomas was recently honored by the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club with the Kevin Restani Memorial Award as the top girls basketball player in the City of San Francisco – and that was a no-brainer.
Note: Co-founder Mark Tennis contributed to this report.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend