If you weren’t paying attention a few weeks ago, you already should have known who was going to be State Junior of the Year. Some of the other selections, however, were much more difficult. We’d say having to go with one of two strong ninth graders was very hard. Plus, since some of the CIF divisional state champions were very balanced teams, it became easier to look for top players from squads that didn’t win state titles but had outstanding overall careers and seasons.
For official writeup on the 2019 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 except for sophomores (Harold Abend). Stay tuned for the upcoming release of the 40th annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Teams. Here is a complete list of our girls basketball individual honorees for the 2019 season:
Haley Jones (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose)
Last year we had to do a senior of the year since the Ms. Basketball State POY was junior Charisma Osborne of Los Angeles Windward. With Haley Jones’ memorable season, that didn’t need to be done. The Archbishop Mitty phenom also would automatically be known as the Open Division/Division I player of the year. For the players of the year, we do pick one from each CIF division even though competitve equity seeding brings up many top players from top teams into the Open/D1 brackets. We make up the difference by choosing more players from Open/D1 on all-state teams than from the lower divisions. Last season’s Senior of the Year, by the way, St. Mary’s of Stockton’s Aquira DeCosta, played on this year’s NCAA title team at Baylor.
Vanessa DeJesus (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) 5-8 G
As the only junior who was on the list of finalists for California Ms. Basketball, DeJesus getting named State Junior of the Year shouldn’t be a surprise. She emerged as the top honors candidate from a team that emerged as the state’s best and won the CIF Open Division state title with a convincing win over Pinewood of Los Altos Hills.
It’s also the second straight year that a player from the CIF Southern Section’ Gold Coast League has snagged this honor following Charisma Osborne of Los Angeles Windward from 2018. DeJesus does become the first State Junior of the Year from Sierra Canyon and the first ever from the San Fernando Valley. She’s not the first player of the year from Sierra Canyon, however, since senior Kennedy Burke was the Division V state honoree for 2013.
DeJesus had her best games against Windward, including 32 in a showdown game in January when the two squads were No. 1 and No. 2 in the state. In all three games vs. the Wildcats (Sierra Canyon lost its only game to Windward but also won against its rivals twice), DeJesus averaged 20 points, 4.3 rebounds and shot 60 percent on three-pointers. For the season, she rang up averages of 15.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and shot 37.8 percent on three-pointers.
“Vanessa is a competitor,” said Sierra Canyon head coach Alicia Komaki, recently honored herself as the Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year. “She is always ready to perform in the biggest games and moments. She plays her best when something is on the line.”
Another of the top juniors was Ashley Chevalier, a teammate of DeJesus at Sierra Canyon.
“I truly believe was had one of the best backcourts in the country,” Komaki added. “We don’t have the season we did without Ashley and Vanessa and the duties and responsibilities they shared as a duo. Immeasurable value to our team.”
Last 10 State Juniors of the Year: 2018 Charisma Osborne (Los Angeles Windward); 2017 Aquira DeCosta (Stockton St. Mary’s); 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).
Brooke Demetre (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
Last year Brooke was a close second for State Freshman of the Year honors to Kiki Iriafen of Harvard Westlake, and although Iriafen had another outstanding season it’s the Monarchs’ star that snags the state’s top honor for a sophomore this year.
The 6-foot-2 Demetre, who is listed as a guard but can pretty much play any position on the court, was the best player on an underclass-laden team. She led Mater Dei to a Trinity League title, a 2-1 record in the CIF Southern Section Open Division Pool play format that included wins over Etiwanda and a third win against CIF Division I state champion Rosary of Fullerton, and a close loss to Windward of Los
Angeles, and then into the CIF Southern Regional Open Division where the Monarchs’ season ended in a loss to Clovis West of Fresno.
Along the way, Brooke led a very balanced Mater Dei team in scoring at 14.6 points per game, rebounding at 6.6 rebounds a game, blocks at 1.8 per game, and was second in assists and steals at 3.3 and 2.1 per game, respectively. Not many players listed as a guard had the six double-doubles Demetre had last season for the 28-5 Monarchs.
Honors earned by her so far include First Team All CIF Southern Section Open Division, the Orange County Register Player of the Year, the Trinity League MVP, Nike TOC All Tournament for the Joe Smith Division and the SoCal Holiday Classic MVP.
“Brooke was already special but this year she showed great improvement, getting better in all areas of her game, offense, defense, passing and leadership,” said Mater Dei head coach and California all-time winningest coach Kevin Kiernan. “Brooke scored inside and out and was a terrific rebounder for us this year – and she was a great teammate. She proved she is one of the best players in the state and is absolutely deserving of being named the State Sophomore of the Year.”
The school already has the State Sophomore of the Year for boys hoops, Devin Askew, but it’s not as if the Monarch girls have the top sophomore that often. The only others besides Demetre are Katie Lou Samuelson (2013) and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2009). The only others from Orange County are Christina Marinacci from Foothill of Tustin (2007) and Erin Stovall from Woodbridge of Irvine (1995).
Last 10 State Sophomores of the Year: 2018 Rowan Hein (Fresno Clovis North); 2017 Haley Jones (San Jose Archbishop Mitty); 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).
Isuneh “Ice” Brady (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego) 6-4 C
This was a difficult decision since Brady and high-scoring guard Londynn Jones of Corona Santiago both had outstanding seasons as the top two ranked college prospects in the state from the freshman class. Jones averaged more than 26 ppg, but the two are much different players — Jones being a scoring guard while Brady is a 6-foot-4 left-handed post player. It was a process of one player scoring more with the other player leading her team to a much more significant championship — the CIF San Diego Section Open Division compared to the CIF Southern Section 3AA bracket.
Brady had her share of high-scoring games as well. She hit for 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a loss to Mater Dei of Santa Ana; she had 24 points and 20 rebounds in a win vs. Mt. Miguel of Spring Valley; and she went for 29 and 27 points against top competition in Northern California in MLK weekend events. In the CIF San Diego Section Open Division playoffs for the Dons (who ended 26-7), Brady had 25 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks in a win vs. Bonita Vista of Chula Vista; and in the title game she had 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in a win against Mission Hills of San Marcos.
After the section title, Cathedral Catholic entered the CIF SoCal D1 playoffs as the top seed, but lost in the second round to M.L. King of Riverside in a game that Brady didn’t play due to a medical issue (she’s fine now). For the season, the all-San Diego Section first team choice averaged 16.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.
In earning State Freshman of Year honors, Brady joins a list of previous San Diego Section winners such as Terri Mann of Point Loma (1984), Kendra Rhea of Lakeside El Capitan (1996), DiJonae Carrington of Horizon (2013) and Destiny Littleton of La Jolla Bishop’s (2014).
Last 10 State Freshmen of the Year: 2018 Kiki Iriafen (Studio City Harvard-Westlake); 2017 Breanne Ha (Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos); 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).
Jadyn Matthews (Enterprise, Redding)
Before last season, the CIF Northern Section had never had a D2 State Player of the Year. Now, the section can count two in a row as Matthews is getting the honor following Chico Pleasant Valley’s Serena Tuitele from 2018.
Matthews led the Hornets to the CIF NorCal D2 championship game where she played well with 18 points in a low-scoring game, but it was in a loss to eventual state champion Menlo School of Atherton. She earlier had led Enterprise to its first section title since 2014 and to the top seed for the NorCal D2 playoffs. In the NorCal semifinal game that the Hornets won against Cosumnes Oaks of Elk Grove, Matthews had 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. One of her best games was against Tuitele’s team from last year (she’s now in college) with 32 points in an Enterprise win.
For the season, Jadyn posted averages of 21.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
She is following older brother Izzy Matthews, one of the best football running backs in recent Northern Section history, to the mountain west region of the nation with a scholarship to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah (alma mater of NBA star Damian Lillard). Izzy recently ended a four-year career playing at Colorado State of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Last 10 State D2 Players of the Year: 2018 Serena Tuitele (Chico Pleasant Valley); 2017 Julia Blackshell-Fair (Fairfield Vanden); 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).
Ila Lane (Woodside Priory, Portola Valley) 6-4 Sr.
Facing tough competition in her league from teams like CIF Open Division finalist Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) and CIF D2 state champion Menlo School didn’t prevent Lane from having an outstanding senior season. That type of competition contributed to the Woodside Priory team only going 17-13, but in the CIF D3 state playoffs her team reached the NorCal D3 semifinals where it came up short in a 56-54 loss to eventual state champ Oakland. It was the closest game the Wildcats had in their title march.
Lane, who is the daughter of former NBA center Juwon Howard, had 18 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in that close battle with Oakland. Earlier in the NorCal playoffs against Selma, Ila was dominant with 30 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. She also had an outing of 26 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks vs. state-ranked Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland and led Woodside Priory to the CIF CCS D5 championship. In another outing from last year that was easy to remember, Ila went for 19 points and 17 rebounds when her team lost to Rolling Hills Prep of San Pedro in the CIF D4 state title game.
It’s been since 2008 when the CCS last had the D3 State Player of the Year. That time it went to Jazmine Jackson from Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco. Lane joins a list of just three others since 1974. She will play next at UC Santa Barbara.
Last 10 State D3 Players of the Year: 2018 Nia Johnson (Sacramento West Campus); 2017 Haley Van Dyke (Moraga Campolindo); 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).
Stephanie Okowi (Oakland Tech) 6-0 Jr.
Perhaps Northview of Covina head coach Danny Silva said it best after the game Okowi had in leading the Bulldogs to a 55-27 win over his team in the CIF D4 state final: “That girl is a beast.”
Okowi only had 16 points in that outing, but snared 24 rebounds to not only break the CIF D4 state record but also come within one rebound of the state finals’ record for any division. Okowi also blocked seven shots. That kind of an accomplishment made her a somewhat easy choice for state player of the year in this division even though we do try not to have one school sweep both player and coach divisional honors. Oakland Tech’s LeRoy Hurt already grabbed the coaching nod in honors announced last week.
Other honors already achieved by Stephanie include third team All-Bay Area by the Alameda News Group and third team All-Metro by the San Francisco Chronicle. There were no other players from CIF D4 state schools that were picked higher.
For her season averages, Okowi’s rebounds aren’t reported but her scoring average was 12.5 ppg. She had a season-high 27 points vs. league rival McClymonds and had 20 points when the Bulldogs beat Menlo-Atherton 59-46 for the CIF NorCal D4 crown.
Okowi is the first-ever D4 state player of the year from the Oakland Section, but for most years its girls teams only competed in the Open Division or in Division I. The last East Bay D4 POY was Minyon Moore from Salesian of Richmond.
Last 10 State D4 Players of the Year: 2018 Destiny McAllister (Los Angeles Brentwood); 2017 Kiara Jefferson (Sacramento West Campus); 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).
Serena Ybarra (Coalinga) 5-8 Sr.
Call us suckers for a comeback story, if you wish, but that’s part of the reason why this senior has been chosen as the honoree for this CIF state division.
Ybarra became well-known to us as a prolific scorer early in her prep career for the Horned Toads, including 24 points and 10 rebounds per game as a sophomore. She suffered a knee injury during her junior season, though, and had to go through all of the rehab to get ready for her senior season. It was certainly a success. Serena put up totals of 19.4 points, 4.5 assists and 3.6 steals per game.
For her team, Ybarra led Coalinga to a 26-5 record. In the CIF Central Section D5 final against eventual state champ Caruthers that the Horned Toads lost 56-44, Ybarra had a game-high 25 points with nine rebounds and five steals. She had 35 points when the team was upset in the CIF SoCal D5 regional playoffs 62-60 in overtime to Sierra of Tollhouse.
In earning the D5 state player of year nod, Ybarra becomes the first ever winner from the CIF Central Section. Before competitive equity seeding, it previously was difficult for players from small town public high schools to break through in D5 with that division dominated in most years by private schools.
Last 10 State D5 Players of the Year: 2018 Vanessa Smart (Oxnard Hueneme); 2017 Kayla Tahaafe (E. Palo Alto Eastside College Prep); 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).