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Troy's Lazuka, Sitanggan have been the perfect combination
Roger Anderson doesn’t keep a list perse, but ask him about the greatest players he’s coached, and he’ll rattle off names without blinking.
Amanda Sims. Alex Sanchez. Gabriella Hanson. Briana Roberson. Alecia Dimas.
In this ninth year coaching Troy’s girls basketball program, Anderson has enjoyed a steady stream of outstanding players. He said he believes he’s watching “the future CEOs of the world” mature before his eyes.
Bound for Pepperdine next season, Lazuka and Sitanggan won’t be the first Troy alums to play ball in college. They likely won’t be the last. But for all they’ve done these past four years, for their successes and their failures, Anderson will forever remember them as Troy greats.
“They make our lives as coaches easier,” Anderson said. “Becca is an ‘A’ student, and Barbara will go through that wall for you if you ask her to. They’re the girls who lead by example, who show the younger kids exactly how they did it when they were their age.
“They have that desire to win, to be good, and it’s been that way from the get-go.”
Seniors now, Lazuka and Sitanggan knew each other before trying out at Troy as freshmen, but said they began their friendship the moment Anderson broke the news.
You’ll be practicing with the varsity, he told them in 2012.
“Oh my god, we’re on varsity!” Lazuka remembers telling Sitanggan privately.
“Barb’s first year,” Anderson recalled, “our second or third game of the summer, we had no one. We had Gaby for maybe one half, and we’re playing Long Beach Poly’s full team. Barb scores like 20 points and grabs 15 rebounds, and we win. I remember saying to myself, ‘Oh, man. She’s special.’ ”
Anderson promoted his newcomers in the winter, then watched as then-seniors Hanson, Roberson and Dimas did the rest.
Each upperclassman offered the freshmen something different, Lazuka said.
Bound at the time for Oregon State, Stanford and Denver University, respectively, Hanson was Troy’s on-court leader, Roberson its vocal captain and Dimas its counselor and comedian.
“They showed them the right way to do things,” Anderson said.
Troy in 2013 won 25 games, losing to Santiago High of Corona in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA semifinals. Hanson and Roberson received All-Orange County honors at season’s end.
“We knew we had to take the leadership role when they left,” Sitanggan said.
Lazuka and Sitanggan say they remember their sophomore year as the year they felt something special brewing between them.
Because Sitanggan started as a freshman, she ran with Troy’s first string. Lazuka settled into a reserve role her first year, but in 2014 became Troy’s starting center.
The two led Troy in scoring as sophomores and again as juniors, notching a combined 48 wins in 2014 and 2015. Last winter, the Warriors lost to West Torrance in the Division 1A championship game. Lazuka and Sitanggan later received first-team All-CIF honors.
“From a young age, these girls have been growing together,” Anderson said. “They’ve lost tough games, CIF games, and those hurt. But they’ve grown from them, they’ve shown character, and they’ll do anything now to play through it.”
Lazuka and Sitanggan began garnering interest from college recruiters as underclassmen.
By the end of her junior season, Sitanggan had become quite the commodity – a three-time All-State point guard with Division I savvy and a seemingly boundless ceiling. Colleges near and far extended to her scholarship offers.
But Sitanggan sought a nearby basketball program where her parents and younger sister – a junior varsity player at Troy – could watch her play. Last spring she joined Lazuka, who was on her unofficial visit to Pepperdine.
“We fell in love with the campus,” Lazuka said. “When they offered us, we tried to keep our cool, but we wanted to take it. Our parents wanted us to take time to think about it.”
“They told us we weren’t a package deal, but that it’d be great to have us both,” Sitanggan said.
Both girls committed to Pepperdine the next week.
“Rebecca brings two of the most important qualities that every great program needs: toughness and an enforcer attitude,” Waves coach Ryan Weisenberg told Pepperdinesports.com. “She is going to own the paint on defense, and even more importantly, own the boards.”
He said of Sitanggan: “She is capable of dishing out 10 assists and/or scoring big points. Her quiet demeanor off the court changes into a fierce competitor as soon as she steps between the lines.”
In this second week of February, Lazuka and Sitanggan still have plenty to do.
The two have increased Troy’s record league winning streak to 199 games. The Warriors will seek their 200th consecutive league win Thursday night against La Habra, and if they get it, Lazuka and Sitanggan will have a 40-0 record in Freeway League games.
Troy last won a CIF championship in 2006, and its inclusion in the latest Open Division watch list makes its road to a 2016 title exceedingly difficult.
But more than wins, playoff runs and winter plaudits, Lazuka and Sitanggan said they hope their careers at Troy have influenced their successors.
“You see what they are,” Anderson said, “and you’ve seen what they’ve done, and you just can’t wait to see where they go these next four years.”
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