The PAC 7 landscape in girls basketball took a tectonic shift this past summer.
St. Joseph High’s Aly Beebe, a Stanford-bound center who can dunk, tore her ACL in a game for her club team. This news created a ripple effect, sending the message that a new champion could be on the rise.
Arroyo Grande (7-2) and Pioneer Valley (6-1) are considered two of the favorites, based on what they’ve done thus far, to take the place of defending champion St. Joseph.
For Arroyo Grande, it begins with Emma Weinreich, a 6-foot-1 senior forward who’s committed to North Dakota, and continues with veteran varsity starter Lindsey Wolf and St. Joseph transfer Heather Madrigal, who, along with Beebe, championed the Knights to a state title in the CIF Division III playoffs last season.
But Arroyo Grande coach Dwight MacDonald said that his team is more than just three players.
“We have 12 players on the team and they contribute one way or another,” he said.
San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Atascadero will also look to be competitive in the PAC 7.
Mary Kate Evans (15.4 points) and Emilie Boege (11.0) are averaging in double digits for Atascadero (4-4). Paso Robles is looking for its first winning season since 2005. And San Luis Obispo, which is coming off a one-win season, has already tripled last season’s total wins (before this weekend’s Farmersville Aztec Invitational).
Outside of the San Luis Obispo County, Pioneer Valley is a serious PAC 7 contender after having won six of its first seven games. The Panthers’ only setback was a nonconference loss to Templeton, which is driven by youth.
Templeton, despite an all-sophomore starting lineup, is playing like a veteran team, owning an 8-2 record after beating Lompoc 73-42 in Thursday’s Los Padres League game. Templeton has three players averaging in double figures in guards Lauren Stuedemann (16.7 points), Marissa Torres (14.8) and Mari Stewart (11.4).
“Whenever you have that much youth,” Templeton coach Shawn Koehler said, “you’re going to make mistakes. Our girls, we’ve been fairly successful so far.”
And they all want to be competitive in the LPL, which last year had co-champions in Morro Bay and Santa Ynez.
Morro Bay has a good chance at repeating, thanks in part to junior Hannah Gilbert, who is drawing Division I college attention thanks to 16.4-point and 8.4-rebound per game averages. Her sidekick is sophomore Sierra Schwellenbach, who is scoring about 10 points a game.
For Nipomo, after opening the season with nine straight losses, the Titans beat Cabrillo 44-33 on Tuesday before losing by 36 points to Morro Bay two days later.
And then there’s Mission Prep, an independent team.
The Royals have Jenna Dunbar, the leading candidate for County Player of the Year. The point guard regularly scores in double digits and is supported by two other key seniors in Bri Harvey and Kaylee Williams.
Mission Prep, which advanced to the third round of last year’s playoffs, is ranked as the top team in Division 5AA by the CIF-Southern Section in its preseason polls. Templeton is seeded sixth in the same division.
Arroyo Grande is No. 3 in Division 3AAA, Atascadero is 10th in Division 3A and Morro Bay, despite being a defending league champion, is unlisted in the polls.
With a long season ahead, the landscapes of those divisions might change.