We’ll have a separate post coming on Tuesday after all of the big tournament finals on Monday that will reveal the actual all-decade all-state girls basketball teams for the 2010s, but for this first announcement we’re taking care of the major awards: State Player of the Decade, State Coach of the Decade, State School of the Decade, State Team of the Decade and State Game of the Decade. It was actually almost a clean sweep for Mater Dei of Santa Ana since the Monarchs were so overwhelming in the early years of the decade, but there was perhaps the biggest honor of them all that they didn’t get.
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CAL-HI SPORTS GIRLS BASKETBALL
STATE PLAYER OF THE DECADE:
Kelsey Plum (La Jolla Country Day)
As we went down the list of the past 10 Ms. Basketball State Players of the Year who were essentially the semifinalists for the Player of the Decade, and will be part of the All Decade Team that will be follow soon, it ended up just like on the boys side where the players toward the end of the decade are at a bit of a disadvantage by not having a body of work that includes a college and possible professional career.
After all was said and done, the winner is one heck of a choice who has proven herself at all three levels. In the narrowest of possible decisions with so many great players in the mix, and based on the criteria, 2013 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Kelsey Plum has been named the Cal-Hi Sports Girls Basketball Player of the Decade.
“Wow, thank you, player of the decade?” Plum texted when told of the honor. “Feels like just yesterday I was back at La Jolla Country Day trying to win a state championship.
“I would like to thank my amazing family, friends teammates and the people who have always supported me with a special thanks to Coach (Terri) Bamford who really believed in me and pushed me to be the best player and person I could be. I wouldn’t be here without her.”
In her freshman year of high school in 2009-10, La Jolla Country Day made it to the Southern Regional Division IV semifinals with Plum averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds while earning All State Freshman honors. In her sophomore season Plum made All State Third Team while averaging 19.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.2 steals for a Torreys team that made it to the Southern Regional D4 title game before falling to eventual state champion Windward-Los Angeles.
The 2011-2012 team in her junior season at La Jolla Country Day went 32-1 in a season that culminated in a CIF Division IV state championship in the days before competitive equity when many of the top teams were crammed into D4. Plum filled the stat sheet with per game averages of 22.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 steals a game. In the 72-41 victory over Salesian-Richmond in the state D4 title game, Plum dropped in 32 points (five three-pointers) with five rebounds, three assists and three steals and was rewarded with a All State First Team selection.
In 2013, and in the first year of competitive equity, Plum led a Torreys’ team decimated by graduation to the second round of the CIF Southern Regional Open Division playoffs before they bowed out to state runner-up Windward-Los Angeles. Plum averaged 27.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 3.2 assists per game and not only was All State First Team but earned the Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year honors.
All told, the daughter of former La Mesa Helix record-breaking QB Jim Plum finished with 2,247 points with 168 three-pointers, 677 rebounds, 381 assists and 370 steals in a 113-game four-year varsity career.
After graduation, Plum went on to the University of Washington where she led the Huskies to their first Final Four appearance in school history. In her senior season in 2017 she averaged 31.7 points per game, 5.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists and became the first Pac-12 player to win the AP Women’s Basketball Player of the Year award while sweeping all the others, including the Dawn Staley Award, the ESPNW Player of the Year, the Honda Sport Award, the John Wooden Award, the Naismith College Player of the Year, the Nancy Lieberman Award, the USBWA Player of the Year, and the Wade Trophy.
Along the way, the 5-foot-9 Plum became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,527 points and the leading free-throw shooter with 912 points from the charity stripe. Her Pac-12 record 57 points against Utah broke the NCAA mark of 3,393 by Jackie Stiles and the 1,109 points in her senior season was an NCAA record as well. Plum then was selected as the first pick of the 2017 WNBA draft by the San Antonio Stars and made the All Rookie team. She moved with the team in 2018 when they became the Las Vegas Stars.
CAL-HI SPORTS GIRLS BASKETBALL
STATE TEAM OF THE DECADE:
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 2011
This wasn’t that difficult of a choice other than compared to the Monarchs from the season before. After they went 32-1 and won the CIF Division 1 state title in 2010, they went 34-1 and did the same thing in 2011. The 34 wins is still a school record and both teams (2010 & 2011) were considered the mythical national champions. The main difference is essentially that Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was a senior in 2011 compared to being a junior in 2010. The team’s other extremely dynamic player, point guard Jordan Adams, also was a year older in 2011 compared to 2010.
The team’s only loss came early on to Long Beach Poly 61-56. The Monarchs then went to the Title IX Holiday Classic in Washington, DC, where they won the title there with an impressive 66-38 win over Elizabeth Seton High of Maryland. The girls then marched through January and February, looking to peak in the CIFSS and state playoffs. The Poly loss wasn’t avenged, but Mater Dei blew by a Santa Monica team in the CIFSS D1AA semifinals 57-37 that had upset the Jackrabbits in the quarterfinals by one point. The Monarchs topped Brea Olinda of Brea to win their section crown 63-54 and in the state final posted a 59-47 victory over Berkeley.
Mosqueda-Lewis, who would later in the decade star for NCAA title teams at UConn, led the team in scoring with 22.1 ppg. She also was the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Adams averaged 10.3 ppg and set a school record that still stands for assists. The team’s other double-digit scorer was senior Alexyz Vaioletama. A powerful player in the paint who was a perfect compliment to Mosqueda-Lewis for all four of her years in the paint, Alexyz averaged 10.7 ppg.
CAL-HI SPORTS BOYS BASKETBALL
STATE COACH OF THE DECADE:
Kevin Kiernan (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
In the case of Kiernan, he reached several big milestones this decade and no one has a more storied history in girls basketball in the Golden State than him, so for that reason he is being named the Cal-Hi Sports Coach of the Decade for the years 2010-2019.
“Wow, I’m honored. So many great coaches out there. I appreciate it,” Kiernan responded when told of the honor.
Kiernan’s first milestone came in 2010 when his CIF Division II state champions went 32-1 and were named the No. 1 team in the nation in both the computer and human rankings. The second milestone was when the 2011 team that went 34-1 won the CIF state Division I title and was No. 1 in all the rankings.
The third milestone was in 2012 when his Monarchs won the CIF Division I state championship in the year before competitive equity and the Open era. That gave the wily veteran a sixth CIF state championship which at the time tied him with St. Mary’s (Stockton) head coach Tom Gonsalves, who also was strongly considered for this award.
The next milestone came when Kiernan hit the 700 career wins mark in January 2016 to at the time become only the second coach beside Joe Vaughn (Ventura Buena, 1976-2007, 761-112) to reach 700 career coaching victories.
Last year, Kiernan reached the ultimate milestone when he recorded career win No. 762 in a Mater Dei win over Fairmont Prep. Going into the championship game of the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree, Kiernan had 787 wins during a career that began at Westminster La Quinta from 1985-1990, Fullerton Troy from 1997-2007, and Santa Ana Mater Dei from 2008 to the present.
Now that Kiernan is the all-time coaching leader in girls basketball history, he joins Mater Dei boys coach Gary McKnight, who is the all-time leader on the boys side having entered the season with 1,136 coaching victories and also was recently named State Coach of the Decade.
“It is a great honor and a result of a lot of hard work, great players and smart assistant coaches,” remarked Kiernan when asked how he felt about the Cal-Hi Sports honor and joining McKnight. “I love working with Gary so it is nice to be recognized alongside him. I’ll never catch him on the wins total do this honor is nice.”
CAL-HI SPORTS GIRLS BASKETBALL
STATE SCHOOL OF THE DECADE:
Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
Yes, there was a concerted effort to try to spread around more of these decade honors to other schools other than Mater Dei. For different reasons, that didn’t happen. The main reason, though, is that the Monarchs were just so strong in the first six years of the decade that it just wasn’t possible for any other schools to catch up.
The Monarchs won three CIF state titles during the decade, although all three were in early years (2010, 2011, 2012). Those two teams in 2010 and 2011 also went 32-1 and 34-1 and were No. 1 in the nation. Despite sub-par seasons for the Monarchs from 2016 to 2018 when they posted records of 27-6, 24-9 and 23-6, they still racked up a record during the decade of 290-39, which was superior to all other schools in the state.
In this age in which private schools tend to dominate in the CIF Open Division, two public school programs that deserve much praise for not only competing with the privates but in some years beating them would be Clovis West of Fresno and Long Beach Poly. The Golden Eagles of head coach Craig Campbell won 30 games for four straight seasons to end the decade, including a victory in the CIF Open Division state final in 2017 over favored Archbishop Mitty, and were 265-56. The Jackrabbits of head coach Carl Buggs were the State Team of the Year for 2014 and also won a CIF state title in 2013. They had a record of 265-51. It didn’t count for the 2010s, but Long Beach Poly also was 63-5 to close the previous decade.
State Game of the Decade:
St. Mary’s (Stockton) 76, Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 69 (2015)
One might think the best game ever in the past decade would have been a scoreboard lighter-upper, and would come from the Open Division that was started by the state CIF for the 2012-2013 season.
Our top game does come from the Open Division, and in a state championship game, and the 2015 victory by St. Mary’s over Mater Dei might not be what one would call a game that blew out any lights on the scoreboard, but it’s a high score for a top level girls basketball game, the second highest scoring game combined of the seven Open games contested, and the second smallest margin of victory. Lastly, every girls basketball analyst queried for this honor gave this more votes than the runner-up, which was Clovis West of Fresno’s 44-40 victory over Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in the 2017 Open Division state title game.
St. Mary’s came into the game 33-1 and ranked No. 1 in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings with a lone loss in the semifinals of the top division at the Nike TOC to eventual national No. 2 Tennessee Blackman of Murfreesboro. The Rams reached the game with NorCal Open Division victories over Modesto Christian, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) and then a convincing 67-52 win over Orinda Miramonte in the Northern Regional Open title game. Mater Dei came into the game No. 2 in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings based on two losses to Chaminade but the Monarchs had a 53-44 victory over Blackman in the title game of the Nike TOC after the Tennessee girls had beaten St. Mary’s 79-68 the previous day.
Another factor that made it even more intriguing was St. Mary’s had lost to Mater Dei in the 2014 West Coast Jamboree and Rams head coach Tom Gonsalves vowed to not let that happen again.
St. Mary’s scrapped its all-out press but did go to a variation of it several times during the game.
Mater Dei led 47-37 with five minutes left in the third quarter but eventual Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Katie Lou Samuelson was playing with three fouls, and that factor combined with St. Mary’s heating up from the outside began a downslide for the Orange County girls.
The game went back and forth in the early fourth quarter but Mater Dei would take its last lead at 65-63 before Kat Tudor and Carlissa Shipp hit key treys and the inside game of St. Mary’s keyed by freshman Aquira DeCosta and junior floor leader Mi’Cole Cayton cashed in on easy baskets to seal the deal.
Cayton finished with a game-high 21 points, with seven rebounds and six assists.
Samuelson, despite the foul trouble, finished with a double-double 19 points and 11 rebounds with four assists. Monarchs guard Andee Velasco played a superb game and had a team-high 20 points (four three-pointers) and five assists.
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