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NICK AGRO, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Fairmont Prep's Tristen Rollon helped her team knock off Chaminade of West Hills, the top-ranked team in CIF-SS Division 1AA on Saturday.

Fairmont Prep confident it's on right track

STAFF WRITER

Calling it a step up would be an understatement.

A year after Fairmont Prep won the school’s first CIF-SS team championship, the Huskies were moved from Division 4A to 1AA. This put the San Joaquin League power in the same playoff bracket with the Southern Section’s perennial elite teams, many of whom boast an enrollment much bigger than Fairmont’s, which hovers around 500.

In prepping itself for its most arduous postseason journey to date, the Huskies haven’t shied away from tough opponents, and on Saturday they beat one of the toughest.

Fairmont Prep scored a monumental victory, 53-51, over defending Open Division champ Chaminade of West Hills in the Public vs. Private Schools Showcase at Burroughs of Burbank.

The Eagles are the No. 1-ranked team in Division 1AA, ahead of Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly. The Huskies are not ranked in 1AA.

“Its definitely up there,” Fairmont coach Dave Esparza said when asked where the win ranks in school history. “It’s not necessarily a program-changer. I think it validates just how hard our kids have been working. It’s a benchmark win for us and our school. Chaminade is a fantastic team.”

The Eagles were without five-star recruit Neah Odom, but the Huskies still had to deal with a talented bunch that included USC-bound Valerie Higgins, ranked as the No. 16 senior recruit in the country.

Cierra Hall (18 points), Christina Li (13) and Tristen Rollon (10) led the scoring and helped the Huskies improve their record to 13-3.

Fairmont Prep will play No. 6 Orangewood Academy on Thursday in a San Joaquin League game. Also looming for the Huskies is a game against top-ranked Mater Dei on Jan. 30.

“We haven’t peaked yet,” Esparza continued, “but we’re headed in that right direction.”

OPEN DIVISION

The CIF-Southern Section released its preliminary watch list for the Open Division playoff bracket last week, and of the 28 teams named, six were locally ranked teams.

Mater Dei, Brea Olinda, Troy, Fairmont Prep, Orange Lutheran and Orangewood Academy – ranked one through six in the county – are all potential selections for the Southern Section’s elite division, which could name up to 16 teams when postseason play begins in mid-February.

Of the county’s potential Open Division squads, only Mater Dei and Orangewood Academy have yet to notch at least one win over a fellow watch list selection. The Monarchs do have wins over nationally ranked opponents from across the country.

Orangewood is in the midst of a five-game stretch where it will play teams on the watch list. The Spartans have lost back-to-back games to Orange Lutheran and Valencia of Valencia over the last 10 days. Their next three games are against Santa Barbara, Fairmont Prep and Windward.

TERRIFIC TANDEMS

The only thing better than having one go-to scorer? Having two of them.

Based on the county’s leaderboard, Laguna Beach, Brea Olinda, Woodbridge and Huntington Beach are the only schools with multiple players included in the top 20.

In each of the Breakers’ 18 games this season, either Jackie Cenan or Alexandra Lewis has led the charge in scoring. The Laguna Beach duo is averaging 32 points combined per outing.

The second-ranked Ladycats boast the most prolific scoring pair in Reili Richardson and Tyiona Watkins. That tandem accounts for 38 points a night.

Woodbridge's Anjali Ghadi and Sierra Vaglica duo put up just under 30 points collectively a night.

Huntington Beach is the only school with three players listed in the top 20. Frankie Wade-Sanchez, Kaylyn Nakaji and Samantha Gray each post double figures on average, and collectively account for 38.5 points.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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