The competition is heating up as the basketball season winds down for Murrieta’s girls basketball teams.
Thursday night’s games marked the start of the second-half of the six-team's Southwestern League play, which includes Vista Murrieta, Murrieta Mesa and Murrieta Valley high schools, as well as Chaparral, Great Oak and Temecula Valley high schools.
Here's a look at their records so far this season, starting with Calvary Murrieta, a private Christian school that plays in the eight-school Ambassador League. Their halfway point began Jan. 19.
The Lady Warriors participated in only one tournament, the Woodcrest Invitational in late November/early December. Their record there was 1-2.
Sophomore Keimi Fujii was selected as Outstanding Player during the tournament.
Calvary is a young team, but, as first year head coach Ken Clark said, “...[T]hey are true warriors at heart.”
Five freshmen, five sophomores, three juniors and two seniors make up the team.
One of those seniors, Tabitha Howell, is a three-year varsity member. Also speaking of the youth of her team, Howell said, “...despite that, we play every game with the mentality that no matter how ‘great’ the other team is."
“I think all my teammates have worked extremely hard and they all have improved in different ways,” Tabitha said.
With a 30-19 league win against Woodcrest Christian Jan. 26, the Warriors are 5-11 overall and 2-8 in Ambassador League play. They were also victorious against the same Royals team Jan. 3.
A statistic of note includes senior Keisha Onia and freshman Stephanie Marcy who are shooting 13 and 8 points per game, respectively.
The Warriors have four games left in the regular season. They next play at Loma Linda Academy, 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Head coach Robert Gergins is guiding the Lady Rams through their second full varsity year. They are still looking forward to their first Southwestern League win. Last year they were 3-23 overall. Through Jan. 26 of this season, the Rams are 0-6 in league, 6-16 overall.
During November and December, the Rams played in three tournaments, the West Valley Mustang Tip-Off Tournament going 2-2, the Lady Bears Holiday Classic (hosted by Riverside Polytechnic High School), going 1-3, and the Murrieta Valley Nighthawk Classic, going 1-3.
In a first-round CIF playoff game last season, the girls played tough a. Significant improvement has been seen this season.
On Dec. 2, 2011, in their fourth game of the West Valley Mustang Tip-Off tourney, the Rams easily won over Temescal Canyon, 53-29.
This 2011-2012 season will see Murrieta Mesa’s first graduating class. Gergins’ team includes four seniors, six juniors and three freshmen.
Freshman forward Kiersta Tanner told Patch that she and her teammates “...play for each other...That's what gets us through to the end. We aren’t just a team; we are a family."
Statistically, through Jan. 24, leaders for the Lady Rams include junior guard Shayd Bowers and senior forward Brianna Warren with 9.9 and 7.9 points per game, respectively.
Senior point guard Lindsey Kerr gets the nod for most three-pointers on her team with 30 makes. She is second in the league in that category. Kerr dishes out the most assists to her teammates with 48 on the season.
Freshman center Mikayla Greens is a great help on defense blocking 17 shots. Greens and Warren are the overall rebound leaders with 7.4 and 6.4 rebounds per game, respectively.
The next game for the Rams is at home against Chaparral, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Head coach Chris Jones’ Lady Broncos own a 12-11 overall record, 3-3 in league through Jan. 26.
They participated in the La Jolla Country Day Sweet 16 Tournament with one win and three losses. In mid-December, they traveled to the Wolverine Invitational in San Diego where they went 2-2. Their third tournament was the West Coast Holiday Festival, from which they came home with a 2-3 record.
Junior guard Serafina Maulupe has been the Broncos’ scoring ace averaging 21.3 points per game including a league-leading 49 three-pointers and 114 free throws made. She is currently second in league for scoring.
Senior guard Kiara King is contributing well on offense with 12.1 points per game. King’s rebounding at both ends of the court—5.6 rebounds-per-game—place her just behind teammate Monique Liggins’ 6.0 rebounds-per-game.
Senior point guard Maya Woody leads in the assist column with 78 (3.4 per game).
Four Broncos provide a balanced attack in steals on the season: Liggins (87), Maulupe (78), King (76), and Woody (69). They are currently one, two, three, and five on the league-leaders’ list for steals per game.
Vista Murrieta is tied for third with four games remaining. Each game is key to this team advancing to CIF playoffs.
The Bronco girls next play at Temecula Valley, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The Lady Nighthawks are tied with Chaparral for the lead with four games left in Southwestern League play at five wins, one loss.
Murrieta Valley is coming off a first-place finish in league last season, the first time in 10 years. They won twice in the CIF playoffs before losing at Buena (Ventura) 64-52 in the quarter finals, Feb. 23, 2011. They lost four seniors to graduation last year.
The Nighthawks captured third place at the Paloma Valley Wildcat Tip-Off Tournament, going 3-1. During their first semester's academic finals week, the girls repeated with a third place trophy at the Temescal Canyon's Titan Classic, going 2-2. In their own Nighthawk Classic, they lost to Citrus Hill in the final game, 45-38 on Dec. 30.
Since then, Murrieta Valley has confidently gone 9-1. Overall they are 17-5.
Senior forward Brenda Bilton earned all-tourney selections at all three tournaments. Senior guard Katie Clark and junior center Karen Wolf each earned an all-tourney award at the Titan Classic.
This season, Chaparral prevailed on the Nighthawks' home court Jan. 24 with a 42-31 win. Feb. 9 will see the Nighthawks visit Chaparral, the final league game for both teams.
Head coach Scott Richards’ girls squad has been tested by two other league foes when they bested the Vista Murrieta Broncos 51-50 on Jan. 19 and came home with a 41-39 win at Great Oak.
“Katie Clark has remained strong from last season to now,” said Richards. “Brenda Bilton, who was injured for part of last season, has been very strong this season as an outstanding defensive rebounder and mid-range shooter. Karen Wolf has developed a more accurate outside shot while expanding on her offensive rebounding and post moves.”
The Nighthawks have six seniors, four juniors, one sophomore and one freshman. One of the juniors is DeShea Wilkes.
“[B]efore her injury during the Paloma Valley tournament,” Richards said. “[Wilkes] was a dominant 3 guard/post that added rebounds and quickness for the team.”
Their lone freshman is Ariana Hernandez. “[She] has added outside shooting, speed, and ball handling off our bench this year as a new comer,” Richards said.
Clark had glowing things to say about her teammates, especially Bilton and Wolf.
“I would say that our entire team has risen to the occasion this year and stepped it up as we are playing well as a team,” Clark said.
“We have been practicing for a long time with each other and our chemistry is building," Bilton said.
Bilton had praise for fellow senior, guard Anna Badillo, and her ball-handling skills. Giving her ‘most-improved’ kudos for the season, Bilton said, “Although she isn't a ‘superstar’ player, she greatly contributes to our team.”
Team captain, senior guard Corrie Hemry, also credited Badillo’s ball-handling as contributing to the team’s success, and described Bilton as a “boxing-out” machine.
Wolf had high praise for the team’s freshman.
“[Ariana] has done considerably well for her first season at the varsity level, being able to get in and score some points here and there,” Wolf said.
Clark is the Nighthawks' leading scorer at 13.5 points per game including 21 three-pointers. She dishes out 3.8 assists per game, has grabbed 69 steals and is 73% on her free throws. Clark appears on the leaders list in nearly every category this season.
Other leading contributors include Wolf who is averaging 12.1 points per game, has 32 blocked shots and averages 8.7 rebounds per game. Badillo averages 2.9 assists per game. Bilton has 31 blocked shots and 8.3 rebounds per game. Wolf and Bilton are currently one-two in league for most rebounds per game.
The Nighthawk girls next host Great Oak, 7 p.m. Tuesday.