Narbonne’s Tori Breshers was a member of last year’s team that lost in the City championship game to Carson. But this time around they are looking to finally get the title. Photo by Ken Brooks.
Fairfax lost to Narbonne by only three points earlier this season. Danah Haley (above) will be looking to get on the winning side of that battle if the two teams meet in the City championship game. Photo by Jason Lewis
Narbonne is the team to beat, but Fairfax will be looking for a rematch in the championship game from an early season loss.
If last summer’s description of Narbonne girls basketball (23-6) (11-0) had held true, the general complexion of City Section basketball would have descended at least on more notch. Apparently it was not bad enough that the Lady Gauchos had been knocked out in the last two City title games by Carson. The forecast preceding the 2011-12 season had become extremely bleak based on their inexperience, youth, and performance.
In fact, the perennial powerhouse’s reputation had plummeted to a new low after losing four impact players including two All-City seniors. The only direction the program could have gone was up. Head coach Victoria Sanders reflected on the candid sentiments randomly expressed about her unseasoned squad.
“We heard people saying, ‘we can beat Narbonne,' 'they’re garbage,’ Sanders said. “But we looked bad. It was ugly and our JV was just as bad.”
Sanders had gone from winning the section title in her first year at the helm to a point when the coaching staff estimated that this would be a .500 season at best. Then Sanders got a look at the section’s elite at the L.A. City Showcase during which Narbonne squeezed out a 3-point win over Fairfax for the tournament championship. Afterwards, Sanders found herself thinking, “This is a rebuilding year, but we might mess around and win the City.“
They have messed around and done pretty well so far. The experience and growth which included playing a strong non-league schedule, eventually paid off to the tune of another No. 1 playoff seed. Along the way they captured their third league title in four years under Sanders. Narbonne has separated itself by leaps and bounds from the rest of the Marine League, which was exposed for its severe lack of competition (the league lost former Washington coach Ricky Blackmon and former Carson coach Marcel Saunders).
The Gauchos did not merely improve enough to earn an unblemished league record, but they easily waltzed through the league and maintained an absurd 47-point average margin of victory. The Sentinel asked, is this a testament to Narbonne’s superiority or a statement against the quality of the league? Sanders response was “It’s the coaching. I’m not patting myself on the back. My staff and the girls worked hard to be where we are. We came a long way. Now the JV is winning by 20 and 30 points too.”
The team’s challenge ultimately shifted from avoiding a sub par season to avoiding complacency during the lopsided games that were not exactly 32 minutes of motivation. “I have to stay on them. Even the players were saying it’s hard to stay focused (when the opponent cannot score),” Sanders added.
It was also challenging for the coach to gauge how prepared they were for the post season, given their easy schedule. “Honestly, I think it hurt us more than it helped us“, she said. “We only have two players (Kim Pickett and Tori Breshers) who really know what the playoffs are about, and they are determined this year.”
Before the playoffs, Narbonne’s last challenge had been a non-league win over Bakersfield Ridgeview three weeks before the season ended. Ready or not the waltzing party’s over. The real competition is in the big dance where they do the Hustle and the Running Man. Despite any concerns, Sanders remains confident about the their chances. Yet she is not looking past any team, especially the top seeds: Fairfax, El Camino Real, Taft, and Carson. Van Nuys was seeded as the Gauchos first playoff opponent.
First round results
Narbonne 82, Van Nuys 21
Chatsworth 50, West Adams 43
Carson 59, Franklin 44
Taft 51, Lincoln 16
El Camino Real 74, Verdugo Hills 17
Washington 53, Huntington Park 49
Crenshaw 56, San Pedro 41
Fairfax 65, Belmont 22
#8 Chatsworth at #1 Narbonne
#5 Carson at #4 Taft
#6 Washington at #3 El Camino Real
#7 Crenshaw at #2 Fairfax
Semifinals, Feb. 25 (2 and 4 p.m. at Cal State Dominguez Hills). Championship, Mar. 3 (6 p.m. at Cal State Dominguez Hills).
Palisades 81, Hollywood 21
Venice 53, North Hollywood 42
Granada Hills 50, San Fernando 36
Los Angeles Roosevelt 51, Los Angeles Wilson 30
Los Angeles Jordan 74, Arleta 20
Eagle Rock 64, Dorsey 42
Westchester 61, Reseda 44
Monroe 47, Birmingham 35
#8 Venice at #1 Palisades
#5 Granada Hills at #4 Los Angeles Roosevelt
#6 Eagle Rock at #3 Los Angeles Jordan
#7 Westchester at #2 Monroe
Semifinals, Feb. 25 (6 and 8 p.m. at Los Angeles Kennedy). Championship, Mar. 2 (6 p.m. at Roybal).
Gardena 63, Panorama 43
Los Angeles Marshall 42, Locke 27
Cleveland 55, Grant 33
Wilmington Banning 48, Jefferson 37
Granada Hills Kennedy 60, Sun Valley Poly 33
Los Angeles University 57, South East 23
Bell 65, Los Angeles 29
Garfield 51, Sylmar 35
#9 Los Angeles Marshall at #1 Gardena
#5 Cleveland at #4 Wilmington Banning
#6 Los Angeles University at #3 Granada Hills Kennedy
#7 Bell at #2 Garfield
Semifinals, Feb. 25 (12 and 2 p.m. at Venice). Championship, Mar. 3 (1 p.m. at Cal State Dominguez Hills).
Elizabeth 58, Los Angeles CES 48
Mendez 39, Central City Value 23
Fulton 54, Foshay 46
Animo South Los Angeles 61, Harbor Teacher 31
Sherman Oaks CES 35, Port of Los Angeles 27
Vaughn 45, Northridge 39
New Millennium 63, Stern 50
Dantzler 60, Camino Nuevo 12
#9 Mendez at #1 Elizabeth
#5 Fulton at #4 Animo South Los Angeles
#6 Vaughn at #3 Sherman Oaks CES
#10 New Millennium at #2 Dantzler
Semifinals, Feb. 25 (12 and 2 p.m. at Los Angeles Kennedy). Championship, Mar. 3 (9 a.m. at Cal State Dominguez Hills).
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