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KYUSUNG GONG, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Brea Olinda's Tyiona Watkins, right, is part of a talented roster that makes the Ladycats the No. 1 team in the preseason top 10.

Girls basketball preview: Preseason O.C. top 10

STAFF WRITER

OCVarsity’s girls basketball O.C. preseason top 10:

1. Brea Olinda: The Ladycats graduated last year’s county player of the year, Reili Richardson, but return everyone else on a squad that went 29-4 and won the CIF State Division 1 title. Junior wing Tyiona Watkins is as athletic and complete a player as there is in the county, and she will thrive as Brea’s new go-to option. Jasmine Rachal is a knock-down 3-point shooter and excellent scorer and Iyree Jarrett proved to be a lockdown defender last season.

2. Fairmont Prep: The Huskies welcome back their top-three scorers from a year ago -Cierra Hall, Tristen Rollon and Christina Li, all battle-tested senior starters. Woodbridge transfer Anjali Ghadi – who was the Pacific Coast League MVP last season – will be eligible to play after the required 30-day sit-out period. The Huskies, who also added Kynsli Schwenke, a transfer from Carson, won’t have the greatest size, but they will be able to score the basketball in a multitude of ways.

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GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW

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3. Mater Dei: Duke-bound guard Jayda Adams plays with a competitive fire, and she possesses the confidence needed to be the No. 1 option for the Monarchs. Mater Dei was a streaky shooting team a season ago, but hopes to improve this season with Adams and Sarah Rahon manning the backcourt. Junior center Emma Torbert will be asked to up her offensive production, as will athletic wings like Madison Johnson and Cydni Lewis.

4. Troy: Replacing 10 players from last season’s 26-win team will be a challenge for the Warriors, but they still have one of the top talents in the nation, guard Kianna Smith. By pairing the Cal-bound Smith with senior wing Naomi Hunt – one of the most underrated players in Orange County – the Warriors have a solid one-two punch. How will the rest of the Warriors roster step up moving forward? Hope Kakihara and Annika Lundgren – Troy’s other top returners – combined to average just more than 6 points a game last year.

5. Sonora: The Raiders figure to be one of the top defensive squads in the county, and it starts with senior guard Meghann Henderson. The Cal State Northridge commit is a nuisance on the defensive end, finishing second in Orange County in steals (110) last season, which led to easy baskets for her teammates. Lainie James also returns as one of the top 3-point shooters around, and if Elizabeth Yoshitake can develop into a consistent third scoring option, Sonora can push Troy for Freeway League supremacy.

6. Santa Margarita: The Eagles return four starters from a team Coach Craig DeBusk believes was much better in 2015-16 than its 14-12 record indicated. Seniors Tori Anderson, Bella Maramica and Morgan McMullen have experience from playing in two CIF-SS championship games. By adding some much needed depth and 6-foot-3 freshman forward Jocelyn Ewell for rebounding purposes, Santa Margarita filled some of its glaring needs from a year ago.

7. Orangewood Academy: Despite their enrollment size, the Spartans again figure to be right in the thick of the Division 1A race at the end of the season. Senior Estefania Giner is one of the top post players in the area, nearly averaging a double-double last season. Coach Leslie Aragon is excited about the potential sophomore guard Wendy Duran brings to the table. If junior Jaqueline Saucedo can return from injury at some point this season, Orangewood would get a huge boost from another forward who averaged 10 points and 10 boards last year.

8. Los Alamitos: The Griffins have the makings of what could be the best backcourt in Orange County. Sophomore guard Cailyn Crocker is already approaching double-digit scholarship offers from Division 1 programs, and incoming freshman Asia Avinger looks to be one of the area’s top newcomers this winter. Los Al is young with only two seniors on the roster, but with tremendous athleticism and depth in the backcourt, the Griffins are equipped to defend their Sunset League title yet again.

9. Huntington Beach: The Oilers pose the greatest threat to dethrone Los Al atop the Sunset League standings, and they certainly have the edge when it comes to experience. Huntington Beach will suit up six seniors, including Frankie Wade-Sanchez and Kaylyn Nakaji who collectively averaged 27 points a game last season. The challenge will come when the Oilers are forced to defend athletic squads who will look to push the pace offensively.

10. Rosary: The Royals won 20 games in 2015, went 4-4 in the Trinity League and advanced to the Division 4AA semifinals. Camille Lira, Becky Obinma and Allison Lou give Rosary a solid trio to build around. Obinma has established herself as one of the elite athletes in Orange County, regardless of the sport. In addition being named an All-County sprinter this past spring, she recorded impressive numbers on the basketball court last winter, going for 30 points and 20 rebounds one night, and 40 points and 26 boards on another.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@scng.com


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