Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Te-hina Paopao of state No. 1 La Jolla Country Day and freshman teammate Breya Cunningham both get onto the top 10 slots for the 40th annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State girls basketball teams. Cunningham is not the only freshman to snag one of these elite positions, either. Go inside to see why these 10 have finished their careers as First Team Overall honorees out of the thousands who played this past season.
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2020 CAL-HI SPORTS ALL-STATE
ELITE GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAMS
FIRST TEAM OVERALL
C – Isuneh “Ice” Brady (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego) 6-4 Soph.
After being named the 2019 State Freshman of the Year, the Dons’ center repeated class honors by snagging the State Junior of the Year award and now caps it off with a First Team Elite selection as well. Following up her outstanding freshman season in which she averaged 16.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists, Brady improved all her numbers after going for 19.9 points, 13.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. In a head-to-head matchup against eventual state junior of the year Kiki Iriafen of Harvard-Westlake in the CIF Southern Regional Division I playoffs, Brady had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a 59-55 triumph. She only had 12 points in a loss to Rosary of Fullerton in the SoCal D1 final, but had 23 against the Royals in an earlier win. Her top game came in a 77-52 victory over Bishop’s of La Jolla when Ice iced the Knights with a monster double-double 41 points and 28 rebounds with four assists and five blocked shots. In an earlier meeting with Bishop’s she had 38 points and 21 rebounds. Brady had some solid outings in games the Dons lost to state-ranked teams as well after going for 22, 21, 26 and 36 points in losses to Long Beach Poly, Clovis West of Fresno, and Sierra Canyon, respectively. She committed to NCAA powerhouse UConn back in December and hopes to join UConn’s list of those from California who’ve been big-time players there.
G – Anya Choice
(Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa) 5-8, Sr.
The lone Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist from Northern California adds an All State First Team selection to her being named the San Francisco Chronicle All-Metro Player of the Year. Although Cardinal Newman had won a CIF State Division IV state championship the year before Choice arrived as a freshman, and they made it to the CIF NorCal Open Division title game in her freshman season with a NorCal Open first round appearance in her sophomore season, Choice led Newman to one of the greatest seasons in school history with their highest finish since finishing No. 4 in 2017 with a No. 11 spot in this year’s final rankings and a 29-4 record overall. She had a career-high and school-record 43 points (six rebounds, six steals, three assists) with eight three-pointers in a 64-59 CIF North Coast Section Open Division semifinal victory over Salesian of Richmond. She had a tough outing in the CIFNCS Open title-game loss to St. Joseph Notre Dame, but followed that up with a game-high 19 points (three three-pointers) with seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in a 50-48 upset of host St. Mary’s of Stockton in the Cardinals CIF Northern Regional Open Division quarterfinal victory. Her season ended in a NorCal Open semifinal loss to Archbishop Mitty where she had 14 points. The leading scorer on the First Team averaged 24.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.3 steals with 78 three-pointers this season and her 2,206 career points is a school record as well for girls or boys.
C – Breya Cunningham (La Jolla Country Day) 6-3 Fr.
It’s a rarity to have a freshman on the First Team Elite squad but obviously it’s becoming less rare after this season’s State Freshman of the Year is one of two players from the class of 2023 to be honored. It’s also not often two girls from the same school are selected for the First Team but for the second straight year it’s happened with La Jolla Country Day placing two players on the top squad like Sierra Canyon did last season. Cunningham averaged a double-double 17.3 points and 11.8 rebounds with 3.3 blocks per game, and did this on a Cal-Hi Sports and national No. 1 ranked team where Ms. Basketball Te-hina Paopao had the ball in her hands a lot of the time. As for finishing, Cunningham shot 61 percent from the field. In a 32-1 season, Cunningham had 26 double-doubles, including 19 points and 11 rebounds in a 44-43 victory over Sierra Canyon in the title game of the top division of the Nike TOC. In the previous game, Cunningham had 20 points and 11 rebounds in a 62-54 semi win against a CIF NorCal Open champion Archbishop Mitty team Country Day didn’t get a chance to sweep with the cancellation of the CIF state championships. Cunningham played a key role in a 59-48 CIF Southern Regional Open Division victory over Windward in which she had a double-double 16 points and 13 rebounds with four blocks. She was over 30 points three times, including a season high 35 points with 13 rebounds in a win over Mission Hills of San Marcos at the SoCal Holiday Classic, and that was preceded by a 31-point and 12-rebound with six-block performance against Clovis West of Fresno.
G – Jayda Curry (Centennial, Corona) 5-6 Jr.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year was nominated by some media and given consideration as the State Junior of the Year after leading the Huskies to CIF Southern Section Open Division and CIF Southern Regional Open Division playoff appearances for the first time in school history. Big things were expected for Curry and the Huskies in a year that saw Centennial finish at No. 8 and the highest ever spot in the final Cal-Hi Sports rankings. Along the way, the flashy point guard averaged 22.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game. In what was probably her most impressive performance, Curry went for a career-high 43 points with five rebounds, three assists and three steals in an early season 81-69 victory over state No. 3 Windward at the Redondo tournament. Even when the Huskies got edged 67-65 by Windward in Southern Section Open pool play she went for 29 points and seven rebounds. In the very next pool play game Curry had one of four double-doubles on the season after registering 28 points and 13 rebounds in a 67-58 victory over Long Beach Poly that avenged an early season defeat. Curry also had 34 and 30 points in Big VIII League victories over Roosevelt of Eastvale and cross-town Santiago, respectively. With 1,627 career points Curry won’t be threatening any of the top Inland Empire career scoring records, but with another season like this one in her senior year she could go over the 2,335 point mark to qualify for the Most Points (Career) list in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book.
G – Vanessa De Jesus
(Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) 5-7 Sr.
After helping lead the Trailblazers to the CIF Open Division state title last year, the Duke-bound guard, who besides being smooth on the court can tickle the ivories as a classically-trained pianist, couldn’t quite do it again this season. However, like last year, De Jesus was a First Team selection and a finalist once again for the Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year after helping lead the Trailblazers to a 25-7 record and a spot in the CIF Southern Regional Open Division where they could not sweep Gold Coast League arch rival Windward when they lost 65-59 after a 56-54 victory in league. On a team with three Division 1 scholarship players on the roster and a lot of girls that can score, De Jesus had season averages of 15.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game, and she had 62 three-pointers. Her top games came against state-ranked teams. Against Long Beach Poly, she had 32 points, four rebounds and three assists on the road in a 62-56 victory. On the road at Rosary of Fullerton, De Jesus had 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and in CIF Southern Section Open Division Pool play she scored 25 points with seven rebounds and five assists in a 60-53 victory over Lynwood.
G – Brooke Demetre (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-3 Jr.
The CIF Southern Section Open Division Player of the Year is also a repeat First Team selection just like last year’s State Sophomore of the Year was a Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist for the second- straight year. The Stanford-bound Demetre, who is listed as a guard but can play any position on the court, and is equally as comfortable on the perimeter where she can shoot the three-pointer, as she is down low, showed just why Stanford offered her early with her play in the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs. In the final game of Pool A play in the CIFSS Open Division, she put the team on her back. Trailing Sierra Canyon 58-54 with 1:43 left, Demetre scored the team’s final seven points in what ended up as a 61-60 overtime victory. Her off-balance, twisting shot tied it at 58-58 in regulation and sent the game to overtime. From there, Demetre had three free-throws in the extra period to ice things and finished with 16 points. She wasn’t the leading scorer but her double-double 13 points and 10 rebounds with two steals and two blocks was a huge part of the Monarchs’ 77-65 victory over Windward in the Southern Section Open Division title game, a first Open Division crown in Mater Dei history. On the season, Demetre, who was the MVP of the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree after Mater Dei defeated Sierra Canyon 43-42 in the championship game, averaged 12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game and had 49 three-pointers.
C/F – Kiki Iriafen (Harvard-Westlake, Studio City) 6-1 Jr.
The 2018 State Freshman of the Year was a Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist for the second-straight season but edged out by fellow First Team selection Brooke Demetre for State Sophomore of the Year last season. However, the one distinction Iriafen has over Demetre is this is the third straight year she is a First Team honoree. The ultimate double-double machine all three years of her high school career has seen her output rise like a ladder each season. After going for 17.0 points and 10.8 rebounds as a freshman and 19.8 points and 13.4 rebounds in her sophomore year, this past season our State Junior of the Year averaged 23.5 points and 15.1 rebounds a game and shot 58 percent from the field. Iriafen had 27 double-doubles in a 25-9 season that ended in a 59-56 loss on the road in San Diego at Cathedral Catholic in the CIF Southern Regional Division I title game in which Iriafen had her final double-double after finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Along the way, she also had 25 or more points 14 times and 30 or more five times with a high of 37 points in a 58-56 victory against a solid Torrance West. One of her top performances came in the CIF Southern Section Division I title game 55-42 victory over Troy of Fullerton when Iriafen went for 25 points and 17 rebounds. The CIF Southern Section Division I and the Los Angeles Daily News Player of the Year has dozens of schools showing interest in her, including Baylor, Connecticut, Stanford, UCLA and USC, with Stanford, UCLA and USC offering Iriafen a scholarship.
W – Amaya Oliver (St. Mary’s, Stockton) 6-2 Sr.
There are those that will argue about whether the USC-bound Oliver is the top player in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, but that’s not the way we see it, and as a result the Rams’ star is the only player from the CIFSJS and one of only two players from Northern California to make the First Team Elite Squad. One thing is certain, besides being able to play almost any position on the court, Oliver was the senior glue that held the Rams together through a season that saw St. Mary’s win another CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship and make a CIF Northern Regional Open Division quarterfinal appearance. Along the way, Oliver averaged team highs of 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game and garnered the Most Outstanding Player at the Iolani Classic in Hawaii. Oliver did everything she could in a 55-52 loss to NorCal D1 champion Bishop O’Dowd after finishing with 28 points and 15 rebounds, and she matched the season-high 28 points and added a season-high 16 rebounds in a win over a solid San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno. In the game that ended the Rams’ season, a heartbreaking 50-48 loss to Cardinal Newman, Oliver gave it her all after finishing her high school career with a double-double 18 points and 10 rebounds.
G – Te-hina Paopao
(La Jolla Country Day) 5-10 Sr.
The Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year headlines the First Team this year after making the First Team last season when she was one of the Ms. Basketball runners-up. The Oregon-committed Paopao had her dream at the beginning of the season to lead Country Day to the CIF State Open Division title getting curtailed by the Coronavirus pandemic but she got the Torreys as close as possible after leading them to a 32-1 record, a CIF Southern Regional Open Division championship, the Cal-Hi Sports’ No. 1 ranking and the national No. 1 ranking in every computer and human ranking. Along the way, Paopao averaged 22.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game. She made 88 three-pointers and shot 37-percent from outside the arc, 53-percent from the field overall. Paopao was 89-of-101 from the free-throw line and of the 146 girls in the state reported to have shot at least 80 free-throws, her 88-percent is the highest reported mark. Besides winning the Ms. Basketball honor, Paopao was the lone girl from California to be selected to play in the McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American games. Paopao lost those opportunities but now gets to follow in the footsteps of 2016 Ms. Basketball recent Oregon graduate and WNBA No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu in Eugene.
G – Juju Watkins (Windward, Los Angeles) 6-0 Fr.
The Los Angeles Times Player of the Year might have been edged out as the State Freshman of the Year by Breya Cunningham of La Jolla Country Day, but just like when previous Windward star and current UCLA guard Charisma Osborne went back and forth three times for statewide honors with 2019 Ms. Basketball Haley Jones, don’t be surprised if the same thing happens with Watkins and Cunningham the next three years. For now Watkins joins Cunningham as the second freshman on the First Team Elite squad, which is just the second time ever two first-year players have made the top team. On the season, Watkins averaged 21 points and nine rebounds with two steals per game. She had 28 points in the CIF Southern Section Open Division title game 77-65 loss to Mater Dei, and in the CIF Southern Regional Open Division 59-48 loss to Country Day she led the Wildcats with 16 points. Two impressive performances in games the Wildcats won were a 31-point, nine-rebound, four-steal outing in a 69-56 win on the road in San Diego at Cathedral Catholic, and in a 65-59 CIF Southern Regional Open Division first round victory over Gold Coast League arch rival Sierra Canyon she went for a double-double 20 points and 13 rebounds and made some huge plays while scoring eight straight points in the fourth quarter to lead Windward to a comeback win.
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