La Jolla Country Day coach Terri Bamford says the Torreys are "peaking at the right time" in preparing to face the Bay Area's Los Altos Hills Pinewood for the Division V state title.
La Jolla Country Day has never lost a Division V girls basketball state championship game.
When the Torreys face Los Altos Hills Pinewood for the Division V state crown at 10 a.m. today at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena, LJCD will be seeking its third straight title in that division.
Of course, the first two were secured by Candice Wiggins-led teams more than a decade ago (2001-2002).
“It’s been awhile since we’ve played in Division V,” said coach Terri Bamford. “We play where the state CIF tells us to play. We moved to Division IV (in 2003) and we played in the Open Division last season.
“Some people say we’re playing down, but we’re just playing where the state puts us and this year it’s Division V.”
The Torreys (20-11) took a circuitous route to reach the state championships, moving into enrollment-based Division V after losing in the opening round of the playoffs in the San Diego Section’s performance-based Open Division. They raced through the Southern California Regional, winning by an average of better than 33 points.
Still, the season has been one of ups and downs. All 11 losses came against quality teams.
It was wins over two tough opponents — Alhambra Mark Keppel and Moreno Valley Canyon Springs — that gave the Torreys confidence.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” said Bamford. “In those two games we just started clicking, the things we had been trying to do started to happen. Each of the girls understands their roles and does what is best for the team. They all learned how to score within the framework of a team.”
There are only seven players, three of whom are seniors.
UC Santa Barbara signee Sabrina Callahan (13.5 points a game) is the most recognizable, but all seven have their roles. Sophomore Mai-loni Henson is the team’s leading scorer (15.2). Another 10th-grader, Mariana Ecija, is the sparkplug. Hadiyah Muhammad, a state-class track athlete, is the defender. And Cydney Collins is the leader, always seeming to make the big basket, rebound, steal or stop when the going gets tough.
Five of the players were members of the 2012 Division IV state champions, led by sisters Maya and Malina Hood and Kelsey Plum, which crushed Richmond Salesian so badly (72-41) the youngsters saw action in that game.
Pinewood (29-3), says Bamford, has played just as tough a schedule as the Torreys. The deep, balanced Panthers have won five state titles, feature accurate 3-point shooters and have high basketball IQs to adjust if La Jolla Country Day finds a way to slow them.
“Each state championship appearance is different,” said Bamford. “But they’re all fun.”
PREP BASKETBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento
Division V Girls: Los Altos Hills Pinewood (29-3) vs. La Jolla Country Day (20-11), 10 a.m.
Division V Boys: Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame (30-5) vs. La Canada Renaissance (24-7), noon
Division III Girls: Modesto Christian (26-8) vs. Santa Barbara (30-5), 2 p.m.
Division III Boys: San Anselmo Sir Francis Drake (26-7) vs. West Hills Chaminade (26-0), 4 p.m.
Division I Girls: Elk Grove Pleasant Grove (25-9) vs. Moreno Valley Canyon Springs (24-6), 6 p.m.
Division I Boys: Danville Monte Vista (31-1) vs. Corona Centennial (29-3), 8 p.m.
Division IV Girls: Napa Justin-Siena (29-6) vs. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (27-4), 10 a.m.
Division IV Boys: Hayward Moreau Catholic (27-6) vs. Torrance Bishop Montgomery (27-6), noon
Division II Girls: San Jose Archbishop Mitty (20-11) vs. West Hills Chaminade (28-4), 2 p.m.
Division II Boys: Folsom (32-2) vs. Bellflower St. John Bosco (22-4), 4 p.m.
Open Division Girls: Richmond Salesian (30-6) vs. Long Beach Poly (26-3), 6 p.m.
Open Division Boys: Oakland Bishop O’Dowd (28-4) vs. Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-0), 8 p.m.