Daily News girls basketball preview: 10 teams to watch this season

The high school girls basketball season recently got underway. Here are 10 teams, in alphabetical order, to watch this season:

Alemany

The Warriors gained experience as a young group last season that lost many close games. This year’s team is looking to close those gaps.

“I think as a team, (we need) to maintain a consistent effort, leadership and positivity going into those two scenarios and not having the mental toughness to finish up those games as well,” senior guard Kate Hackney said.

Hackney is the team’s “utility knife,” as third-year head coach Jeff Dosado said.

Sophomore guard Jazzy Garcia (5-foot-8) will have an increased role this season and sophomore Lauren Arce takes over the point guard position.

Burroughs

The Bears’ season began in Hawaii in the King Kekaulike High School tournament. Burroughs picked up three wins by 10 points or more at the event.

They are looking to bounce back from a loss in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 2AA playoffs last season.

Calabasas

Destiny Melton is in her fourth year as head coach for the Coyotes and feels that she’s fully established the culture she wants within the team.

“Last year it was a little bit more of not my team just yet,” Melton said. “And now I feel like with having them the full summer and actually being able to go through everything and do what we want to do, it’s definitely more of my team in my vision in my culture — which is family and sisterhood.”

Maddy Tauro, a Cal State Fullerton commit, is the team’s “engine,” according to Melton and is recovering from a wrist injury.

Junior forward Jocelynn Townsend is hard to stop when she’s getting to the boards.

Granada Hills Marianne Boco #5 drives to the basket against Westchester in the second half of a City Section Open Division girls championship at Pasadena City College in Pasadena on Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Granada Hills Charter

The Highlanders made an appearance in the City Section Open Division championship last season and have a new coach this season, Rai Colston, who previously won a Division II championship with El Camino Real.

Daily News All-Area guard Marianne Boco returns for her senior year, but is currently out due to an ACL injury, according to reports.

Harvard-Westlake

Defense will come first for the Wolverines this season as a way to speed up the game and scatter opponents.

“I think defense turns into offense,” coach Melissa Hearlihy said at Mission League media day. “And I think when you are not necessarily as balanced as I feel we’re going to be this year offensively, you need to use defense to win games and win the championships.”

Harvard-Westlake reached the CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals last season with the help of Bella Spencer, who recently had surgery on her ACL.

Sophomore center Valentino Guerrero is back, as well as junior guard Deana Thompson and senior point guard Jamie Yue.

Louisville

The 2023 Sunshine League champions edged Granada Hills Charter by one point in their season-opener and senior guard Miye Kodama led the way with 16 points.

Senior point guard Andrea Hurtado put up 12 points against Palisades in addition to logging five points and four steals.

Notre Dame

First-year Knights coach Jena Laolagi looks to rebuild a Notre Dame program that went 1-9 in Mission League play. Prior to this season, she helped Shalhevet win a CIF Division IV state championship.

Laolagi said at Mission League media day that role identity has been a starting point for growth.

“It’s kind of like an orchestra leader and trying to figure out the best way to make it all fit and make make everybody really feel important,” she said. “I think it’s getting them to understand that your role last year wasn’t necessarily the same as your role this year.”

Senior guard Natalie Villamor has already reached 1,000 career points this season. She and senior guard Amia Witt are 3-point specialists. Senior Natalie Trujillo excels from mid range.

Sierra Canyon’s Leia Edwards and Izela Arenas defend Chloe Briggs of Ontario Christian during their CIF Southern Section Open Division playoff game February 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon

Senior returners will be big for the Trailblazers, which is coming off a CIF-SS Open Division championship, after the graduation of reigning Daily News Player of the Year Juju Watkins.

“I really think this team could be better than last year’s team, just with the the pieces that we’ve added and the fact that everybody else got better,” coach Alicia Komaki said. “It wasn’t Juju and and the Trailblazers. We have some really good basketball players on this team and a lot of people have been waiting patiently for for their turn.”

Christy Reynoso will be back at point guard and forward Mackenly Randolph is primed for a big year. Guard Izela Arenas, a Louisville commit, also returns for her senior year and Sierra Canyon added fresh talent in forward Ashley Redd, a transfer from New York, and guard Jerzy Robinson, a transfer from Arizona.

Valencia

Jared Honig begins his first year as head coach at Valencia with a group that finished tied for second in the Foothill League standings last season.

Senior point guard Libby Oxciano leads a hard-working group that brings an aggressive freshman in Keira McLaughlin, who was named a captain, into the fold. The Vikings have already seen tough competition this season with games against Chaminade and Westlake.

Westlake

Westlake won the 2023 Warrior Tip-Off tournament on Nov. 17 after a three-way tiebreaker decided by point differential. Sophomore Mathis Dritz, who is 6-foot-2, scored 30 points in an 87-71 win over second-place Chaminade.

Junior center Emma Ange, junior forward Taylor Swanson and senior guard Devin Feiereisen could also be major contributors this season.

Others to watch: Birmingham, Chaminade, Hart, Oaks Christian, Saugus

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