2011-12 PLAYERS TO WATCH
G, Junior, Heritage
Injuries depleted the Patriots last year, so they begin anew this season with a younger lineup and coach Nicole Riscica returning to lead the team. Carroll averaged 8.5 points per game last season and will run the point for Heritage, which already has victories over Tahquitz and West Valley.
G, Senior, Murrieta Valley
A first-team All-Valley and All-Southwestern League selection a year ago, Clark led the Nighthawks to a better-than-expected 2010-11 season in which they won the Southwestern League and reached the Division II-A quarterfinals. That run included a rousing second-round upset of Santa Ana Foothill. Clark is verbally committed to play at Division III Johns Hopkins next year.
G, Senior, Paloma Valley
Paloma Valley will be a much-improved team, and the senior guard is one reason why. She has averaged 13.3 points per game during a challenging pre-league schedule that included a victory over Temecula Valley and narrow losses to Murrieta Valley and Norco.
F, Senior, Chaparral
Johnston gives the Pumas additional strength in the paint to go along with teammate Jessica Pino. She is averaging a team-leading 7.8 rebounds per game and ranks second on the Pumas with 11.8 points per game. Chaparral is 5-0, incuding a victory over Great Oak at the West Valley tournament.
G, Junior, Vista Murrieta
The returning All-Southwestern League selection is off to a sizzling start, averaging 19.2 points per game to go along with her team-high 14 steals. Look for Maulupe and her teammates to be plenty motivated — they missed the playoffs last year despite a 16-win season.
G, Junior, Linfield Christian
Mears is one of several key returners from the Lions' surprise quarterfinals team from a year ago. Early on this season, she has been the top scoring option — with 13.0 points per game — for a team that is off to a 4-1 start. With Mears, backcourt teammate Summer House and Makenna Wesseln in the post, Linfield will contend in the Ambassador League.
F, Junior, Temescal Canyon
Peterson, the Valley's top returning scorer from a year ago, established herself as a force last year for the Titans, who won the Sunbelt League championship and advanced to the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals. She averaged about 15 point per game for Temescal, which will re-form with 24-point-per-game force Arica Nassar graduated and the team playing for new coach Ed Thomas.
F, Senior, Chaparral
At 6-foot-3 and in her final year with the Pumas, Pino is as good of a post player as it gets in this area. A two-sport, signed recruit for UC Santa Barbara, Pino averaged 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season. Her team seems to have adjusted to losing Ta'Rea Cunnigan to graduation — already, the Pumas are 5-0, won the West Valley tournament and have a victory over league-rival Great Oak.
F, Junior, Great Oak
Her well-known last-name not withstanding — yes, older sister Lindsay was a three-time All-Valley Player of the Year — the junior forward has established herself as an area power in her own right. A second-team, All-Valley selection last year, Katie already has a 27-point game to her credit, and she hopes to lead a contending Great Oak team to a playoff berth this season.
C, Senior, Paloma Valley
Turner ranked fourth in the Valley in scoring last year with 14.4 points per game. Turner and Howard form a strong inside-outside punch that will challenge other Sunbelt League teams. Turner is averaging 12 points per game this season.
G, Senior, Temecula Valley
The Golden Bears got two rounds deep into the playoffs, and Thompson was a big reason why. The 5-8 guard averaged double digits in points as Temecula Valley went 16-13 and defeated Westminsters in the postseason before falling to Anaheim Canyon.
G, Senior, West Valley
Can Ware continue to lead a resurgence in girls basketball at West Valley? Perhaps. The senior is coming off a first-team, all-Mountain Pass League season in which West Valley finished second and made the playoffs. She is averaging about 20 points per game and has helped spark a 4-2 start for the Mustangs, who already have two victories over Temescal Canyon and a win over Heritage.
— Landon Negri