Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Juju Watkins plus State Senior of the Year Londynn Jones, State Sophomore of the Year Kennedy Smith and NorCal Player of the Year Talana Lepolo headline the 42nd annual Cal-Hi Sports all-state girls basketball teams. Go inside to see why these 10 have finished their careers as First Team Overall honorees out of the thousands who played during 2021-22 season.
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2022 CAL-HI SPORTS ALL-STATE
ELITE GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAMS
FIRST TEAM OVERALL
C – Isuneh “Ice” Brady (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego) 6-4 Sr.
After being named the 2019 State Freshman of the Year, the 2020 State Sophomore of the Year, and the 2021 State Junior of the Year, the Dons’ center was unable to snag a Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year or Senior of the Year award, but it is still a third straight All-State First Team Overall selection for the Connecticut-committed Brady, and a second consecutive nomination as a Ms. Basketball finalist. With Brady as the centerpiece, Cathedral Catholic finished 22-6 and No. 9 in the Final Expanded Rankings after bowing out to Sierra Canyon in the opening round of the CIF Southern Regional Open Division playoffs. Brady had her best season scoring-wise at 20.5 points per game, she went for 30 or more points four times, had a game with 23 rebounds, registered 21 double-doubles, plus she had a double-double finish for the fourth straight season after snagging 12.5 rebounds per game. Ice also had 3.3 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.5 steals per game, plus she showed once again she can hit the three-pointer with 24 made from beyond the arc. While neither mark makes the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book, Brady also hit two huge career milestones with 2,066 points and 1,484 rebounds.
G – Teagan Brown (Oak Ridge, El Dorado Hills) 5-10, Sr.
There was no question Brown was the top player on the top team in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section after Oak Ridge won the section’s D1 title and finished 25-6 and No. 12 in the Final Expanded Rankings. Despite only playing in 10 games of an 8-4 COVID-shortened spring campaign and making Elite Third Team, this season Teagan was a near miss Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist and is named First Team Elite. It would be unfair to the other Trojans’ girls to call the Washington-bound Brown a one-girl team, but in reality she was the only player in double-digit scoring and rebounding at 20.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game with 3.3 steals and 2.5 assists per game as well. She had 17 double-doubles on the season including her final two games. In a minor upset, 51-48, that pitted Brown against her future Huskies teammate’ and fellow Elite First Team selection Elle Ladine, Brown’s numbers were a little lower than Ladine, but she led her team to victory down the stretch and finished with a solid double-double 19 points and 10 rebounds in the CIF NorCal Open Division quarterfinals. The season ended in the semifinals with a loss to Carondelet but Brown went for another double-double after finishing with 26 points and 10 rebounds. For her four-year varsity career, Brown finishes with 1,793 points and 883 rebounds. She also connected on 148 three-pointers including 76 this season.
C – Breya Cunningham
(La Jolla Country Day) 6-4 Jr.
The State Freshman of the Year in 2020 was edged out as State Sophomore of the Year last year by Juju Watkins when Watkins was at Windward of Los Angeles. However, this season Cunningham makes it three straight years as an All State Elite First team selection and a second straight season as a Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist. Unlike last season when Cunningham only played in 16 games in a season affected by the pandemic, club ball running concurrent to high school, and she didn’t play in the Southern Regional Open Division playoffs since she was trying out for and made the USA U16 Team that won a FIBA Gold Medal, in this season Breya played in all 28 games of a 25-3 campaign. That was good for a No. 3 finish in the Final Expanded Rankings after the Breya-led Torreys lost a 63-62 heartbreaker to Sierra Canyon in the CIF Southern Regional Open Division finals. In that match-up, she had 23 points and 13 rebounds but it wasn’t quite enough. There is no question that it’s likely just about every college would like to have her but Cunningham says she has narrowed her choices down to eight schools, Arizona, UCLA, USC, Oregon, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Duke and Texas.
G – Jessica Grant (Mission Hills, San Marcos) 5-8, Sr.
If there’s one thing Grant did was she proved that shooting the three-point shot can not only lead to being the team’s best player on a “we’ll play anyone” squad that went 24-8 and finished No. 8 in the Final Expanded Rankings, it can lead to being selected All State Elite First Team. The UC Santa Barbara-bound sharpshooter had five three-pointers in the season-ending loss in the CIF SoCal Open Division to Centennial, and in doing so Grant ended up as the reported leader in three-pointers by for in the nation and state. Her 162 made treys was 35 more than the No. 2 mark in the nation and 46 more than the No. 2 mark in the state. Her spot in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book will be in two places, the No. 3 spot on the Most Three-point Field Goals Made (Season) list, and added to her first three seasons her 486 career made treys gets her to the head of the class and the top of the list and past the 485 of Allison Ayala from 2014-2017 at Covina. It falls one short of the Record Book but she had 10 treys in a game this season, a mark she first hit in her junior season. It should be noted that although Grant likely had no idea she could set the career three-point record, her last five treys that gave her the record came in a season-ending 62-51 loss to Corona Centennial in the CIF Southern Regional Open Division playoffs.
W – Gabriela Jaquez (Camarillo), 6-0, Sr.
The Scorpions’ scoring machine was another just miss as a finalist for Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year, but there was no question the UCLA-bound wing was more than deserving of an All State Elite First Team selection after garnering Third Team last season. Calling Camarillo a one-girl team would be unfair to a Scorpions group that went 30-3 on the season since it takes more than one player to accomplish that kind of record. The bottom line, though, is that without Jaquez’s production there would not have been a No. 28 finish in the Final Expanded Rankings. Her 34.2 points per game was the No. 3 reported mark in the state but nearly 10 points per game higher than the next player from a state-ranked team. Her 15.7 rebounds a contest was sixth in the state but once again the highest by a player from a ranked team. Jaquez also averaged 4.7 steals and 2.6 assists per game and had 43 made three-pointers. She scored over 40 points four times with a high-water mark of 54 (19 rebounds and five assists) in a win over San Bernardino Cajon. In 33 games, Jaquez had 30 double-doubles and probably would have had all 33 if those three games were not total blowouts where her minutes were reduced. Her 1,127 points and 518 rebounds this past season both make their respective lists in the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book. As for her career, Jaquez finished with 2,425 points and 1,319 rebounds with the points total making that list in the Record Book as the No. 2 mark in Ventura County history.
G – Londynn Jones (Centennial, Corona) 5-5, Sr.
In a year when a junior is selected Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year, that opens it up for a senior to be named State Senior of the Year and the UCLA-bound Ms. Basketball finalist snagged that award as well along with this All State Elite First Team selection. Although she didn’t help take the team as far as it went in the COVID-shortened spring season where the Huskies won the CIF Southern Regional Open Division title, she was still among the state leaders in scoring after leading Centennial to a No. 6 spot in the Final Expanded Rankings and a 26-7 record before bowing out 69-51 to Etiwanda in the SoCal Regional Open Division semifinals, a game in which Londynn had 27 points. For the season, she hit for 30 or more points on seven occasions and had her minutes not been limited in several blowouts, Jones might have had even more impressive stats. Even so, her 25.2 points per game was 10th in the state in scoring and fourth in the CIF Southern Section behind her soon to be UCLA teammate and fellow First Team selection Jaquez. Jones’ 108 three-pointers was 17th in the nation and the No. 6 reported mark in the state. In four varsity seasons that started at cross-town Santiago for her freshman and sophomore years, the lefthander finished with 2,713 career points. That total is good for No. 27 all time in the state and No. 7 all time in the Inland Empire according to the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book.
W – Elle Ladine (Pinewood, Los Altos Hills) 5-11, Sr.
After playing 10 of the 17 games in a 17-0 record last season after transferring from Lowell (San Francisco), Ladine was not chosen for one of the three All State Elite Teams, but even then the buzz was Elle would be one of the top players if not the top player in Northern California, and she didn’t disappoint. The Washington-bound Ladine was one of only two of the six Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalists from Northern California after leading Pinewood to a 22-3 record and No. 13 spot in the Final Expanded Rankings. She couldn’t help duplicate the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division title of last season but it wasn’t due to lack of effort on a team this past season that did not have anywhere near the talent of last year’s team. Even so, Elle had 30 points and 19 rebounds with four assists in a CCS Open semifinal win over St. Ignatius of San Francisco. Two days later the weight of carrying the team really showed in the CCS Open title game. Pinewood led 29-26 at the half but Ladine was visibly tired in the second half of a 66-54 loss to Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in which she had 18 points, four rebounds and six assists. With a week to rest before the CIF NorCal Open Division quarterfinals, Elle re-charged her batteries and finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds but the rest of the Panthers couldn’t do very much in a 51-48 loss Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills. After the game, Pinewood head coach referred to his team as “Elle and the Belles.” Ladine’s final performance was her 23rd double-double in 25 games and she ended the season averaging 23.4 points, 14.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, plus she shot 41 percent from outside the arc on 64 made three-pointers. The 23.4 points was the top reported mark in the CIF Central Coast Section and No. 20 in the state, and her rebounding totals were No. 3 in the CCS and No. 16 in the state.
G – Talana Lepolo (Carondelet, Concord) 5-6, Sr.
Even as a sophomore at St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda), Lepolo was considered one of the top defenders and top point guards in the entire state. After that sophomore season, Lepolo was selected All State Elite Second Team but never got the chance until now to move up to First Team. She also has nabbed one additional honor and that is being listed as the NorCal Player of the Year, which has just been added to our archives. The Stanford-bound Lepolo missed her entire junior COVID-shortened season after transferring from St. Joe to Carondelet and the CIF North Coast Section would not allow her to just miss the sit-out period. The NCS ruled she also had to sit out the first part of the past season but when she came back the Cougars became legitimate contenders. Upon her return the Cougars finished second in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree with a win over Archbishop Mitty, and then in a 56-50 loss to national No. 2 Texas DeSoto she fought off foul trouble and still played stellar defense and led the Cougars with 15 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals. The win over Mitty earned Carondelet the top seed in the CIF Northern Regional Open Division playoffs, but despite playing her heart out Talana could not get Carondelet a sweep of Mitty after a 72-63 loss. With her future coach Tara VanDerveer looking on, Lepolo who usually doesn’t look to score unless she has to, finished with a game-high 32 points, plus six assists, four rebounds and three steals. For the season, Lepolo averaged 15.4 points, 8.6 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 steals per game.
F – Kennedy Smith (Etiwanda) 6-1, Soph.
The State Sophomore of the Year moves up to All State Elite First Team from Elite Second Team when she was the 2021 State Freshman of the Year after establishing herself as the top player on a 29-1 Eagles that finished as the No. 2 team in the Final Expanded Rankings. The 6-foot-1 Etiwanda star, who can play down low or is comfortable handling the ball anywhere on the floor, was the lone sophomore to be named one of the six Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalists. Smith had 19 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three assists to lead Etiwanda to the CIF Southern Section Open Division championship game 69-57 victory over Sierra Canyon. The Trailblazers were able to neutralize her in the rematch for the CIF Southern Regional title game when she finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in the season’s lone loss, 60-51. The loss prevented Kennedy from joining her older brother and Damien of La Verne senior RJ Smith in Sacramento where his team won a CIF division I state championship. She and RJ, however, do now share the distinction of both being first team all-state overall as he also was recently written up that high for the boys. Despite the season-ending loss, Smith had an outstanding year after averaging a very consistent 19.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 steals, 2.2 assists and 2.1 blocks per game. Despite being only a sophomore, and not surprisingly, Smith already has major D1 offers including UCLA, Cal, Washington State, Arizona, Rutgers and Houston.
G – Juju Watkins (Windward, Los Angeles) 6-0, Jr.
Watkins was edged out for State Freshman of the Year by Breya Cunningham but came back to win the State Sophomore of the Year honor in the COVID-shortened spring season. Now, not only was Watkins the State Junior of the Year, she got the biggest prize of all after being named Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year after a third straight All-State Elite First Team selection. When Juju hit the first of two three-pointers from a foot beyond the NBA line in the CIF Open Division championship against Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) at the Golden 1 Arena in Sacramento, it was a sign of things to come. For the game, Watkins had a monster double-double 23 points and 19 rebounds with six assists, six blocked shots and three steals. On the season, Watkins averaged 25.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.9 blocks per game but when the playoffs started she seemed to take it to another level. Starting with the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs the 6-foot-1 Watkins averaged 27.4 points and 12.7 rebounds per game for the seven games played. Watkins works just as hard in the classroom with a 3.8 GPA as she does on the hardwood. As for college offers, is there any major D1 program that wouldn’t want her? They’ll have to wait because Juju has another possible Ms. Basketball award and CIF Open state title to win and she and the team will be the preseason favorites.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend
Note: Co-founder Mark Tennis contributed to this report.