The objectives for the Mission Prep girls basketball team are different entering this season.
That’s to be expected after moving from the CIF-Central Section to the much larger, more difficult Southern Section, as the Royals did this past offseason.
From 1992 to 2008, Mission Prep won 16 straight divisional championships, the most decorated dynasty of any sport along the Central Coast, with the majority of those titles coming in the Central Section.
Such postseason runs are considerably harder to come by in the Southern Section nowadays.
“We want to make the playoffs. It’s not guaranteed,” Royals coach John Krossa said. “In the Central Section, it was pretty much guaranteed.”
Because Mission Prep doesn’t play in a league, the Royals have to win 80 percent of their games just to ensure an at-large trip to the playoffs. They need to win at least 50 percent to be eligible.
“To get into the playoffs is so much tougher, but we’re also excited about that,” Krossa said. “Every game matters right now (in order to reach 80 percent).
“The goals are a little bit different,” Krossa added.
The Royals (14-14 in 2009-10) have back from last year two standout juniors in point guard Jenna Dunbar, who had team-leading averages of 13.1 points and 3.1 steals per game, and post player Bri Harvey, who had 11.3 points and a team-best 5.7 rebounds.
Junior shooting guard Kaylee Williams should also be a leader offensively after averaging 7.8 points a game at San Luis Obispo High last season.
St. Joseph to impact PAC 7
One of the glaring changes in Central Coast girls basketball this year is that St. Joseph has entered the PAC 7 after dominating the Los Padres League in recent years.
The Knights were ranked in the top 25 of Southern California by the Los Angeles Times for much of last season and made it to the regional Division 4 semifinals.
“They’re an outstanding team,” Arroyo Grande coach Dwight MacDonald said. “They’re going to make a strong league even stronger.”
St. Joseph is led by 6-foot-3 junior center Alyson Beebe, rated by CalHiSports.com as the fourth-best college prospect in the state, and the best center, regardless of class. She averaged 13 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks as a sophomore.
Meanwhile, three-time defending PAC 7 champion Arroyo Grande brings back eight players, including all-county senior guards Madi Ventura and Haley MacDonald.
Ventura was second in the PAC 7 with 4.2 assists per game last year, while MacDonald was second in the league in 3-pointers made, with 41. Emma Weinreich, a 6-1 junior center, posted 7.3 points and 5.3 boards per game as a sophomore.
Balance again figures to carry the Eagles, whose success last year came with no one averaging more than 8.4 points.
“We’ve got some very good depth and great attitudes,” coach MacDonald said. “I think we’ll be very competitive.”
Atascadero (20-5, 10-2) should also be strong again following last year’s second-place finish that included a noteworthy 44-38 win over Arroyo Grande.
The Greyhounds advanced to the Division 4AA quarterfinals, led by county player of the year and all-divisional first-team member Raven Taylor, now a track and field athlete at Michigan.
While Taylor is gone, the majority of Atascadero’s rotation is intact, including junior point guard Casey Nero (who led the league with 6.4 assists and 3.3 steals per game), senior shooting guard Alyssa Palma (9.4 points) and senior forward Shannon Berwick (11.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks).
San Luis Obispo (13-14, 7-5), which finished third in the PAC 7 in 2009-10, has a first-year coach in Keith Guy.
The Tigers lost their top three scorers from a year ago, most notably among them all-county center and Azusa Pacific freshman Hannah Kenny. But they do bring back an experienced backcourt. Malie Guy averaged 5.1 points per game as a junior, while fellow senior Leah O’Reilly was their second-leading 3-point shooter.
Paso Robles (9-16, 3-9) returned five of its top seven scorers, including 6-foot sophomore center Molly Donovan (who averaged nine points) and senior guard Chelsea Kuhns (6.9 points).
Domenique Terry, Audra Perry and Amani White will help compensate for the loss of power forward Kati Sheldon, now the leading rebounder at Cuesta College.
Hansen, Gilbert look to lead Morro Bay to title
Last year, Morro Bay’s only two Los Padres League defeats came to St. Joseph.
The Pirates (18-8, 10-2 LPL in 2009-10) are led by two-time all-LPL first-team honoree Megan Hansen at point guard and 6-2 sophomore Hannah Gilbert at center.
“It’s a young team, but it’s a talented team,” Morro Bay coach Cary Nerelli said.
Hansen, an all-divisional second-team selection last year, led Morro Bay with 12.8 points and 3.4 steals a game.
“She’s more than ready to take over that leadership role,” Nerelli said of Hansen.
Gilbert averaged 5.9 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds last year.
Nipomo (5-20, 0-12 PAC 7 in 2009-10) joined the LPL this past offseason.
The Titans are led by fourth-year varsity player Tessa Underwood. A 5-9 forward, Underwood paced Nipomo with 14.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game as a junior.
Templeton (5-17, 2-10) returns its top three scorers in senior forward Katie Hunter (8.2 points per game last season), senior post player Carly O’Sullivan (7.5) and junior guard Jeanine Madson (6.7).
North County Christian looks to defend title
North County Christian dominated the Coast Valley League a year ago.
The Crusaders (19-6, 8-0 CVL) went on to win the Division 6A championship, advancing to the regional Division 5 playoffs. They bring back the division player of the year, junior forward Brianna Feld, and junior point guard Cristy Scarson, an all-divisional first-team pick.
For CVL rival Shandon (2-11, 1-7), Alexandra Wallace averaged 9.3 points as a junior forward last season.
Coast Union (4-18) is new to the league after playing as an independent in recent years.