Several O.C. girls basketball teams improved dramatically to reach CIF-SS playoffs
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Several Orange County girls basketball teams will tip-off the playoffs Thursday after making dramatic improvement over the past year.
Here are four squads to watch in the first round:
La Quinta (Division 5A): The Aztecs went 7-3 to place second in the Garden Grove League one season after finishing 5-20 overall and 3-7 in league. They are 13-14 overall.
Veteran coach Daryl Funai credits the improvement to the leadership of 5-foot-2, senior point guard Xin Ma and the development of four sophomore starters. The sophomores are leading scorer Katie Nguyen (9 ppg), Katelyn Vo, Kaitlyn Mai and Natalie Tran.
La Quinta opens the playoffs Montview League champion Nogales (15-8).
Ocean View (Division 5AA): The Seahawks are 19-10 overall and earned an at-large entry to the playoffs one season after finishing 1-9 in the league.
First-year coach Ryan Hasegawa, an assistant at Marina the past two seasons, has stressed team chemistry and striving for success on and off the court. The Seahawks have developed sophomore Angelina Bado, who averages a team-high 14.5 points.
Ocean View, ranked ninth in Division 5AA, takes on Pacifica Christian of Santa Monica at Park Century School in Culver City.
Pacifica (Division 5AA): The Mariners (15-14 overall) could be the most improved squad in Orange County. One season after finishing 0-10 in the Empire League, Coach Scott Sangren’s team earned an at-large berth in the playoffs.
Pacifica almost took third place in a league that features Cypress (Division 2A), Crean Lutheran (Division 1) and Valencia (Division 3A).
The Mariners’ growth has been led by 6-foot posts Maelana Clark and Sangren’s daughter Abby and point guard Erica Yang. Clark and Yang are juniors while Abby is a senior.
Pacifica, ranked sixth in Division 5AA, plays at Cate in Carpinteria at 6 p.m.
St. Margaret’s (Division 5AA): The Tartans (22-6 overall) went 10-2 in the Orange Coast League and grabbed the No. 1 seed in their division just one season after finishing 9-15 overall and 1-7 in the ultra-tough San Joaquin League.
Second-year coach Josh Markum, the former boys coach at Saddleback Valley Christian, has blended several young players with seniors Minka Martine, Lauren Lam and Kaitlin Tam. Martinez (Penn State) and Lam (Hofstra) are college commits for lacrosse who earned All-CIF honors in that sport last spring.
The team also has developed sophomore Harper Gideons, who averages a team-high 14 points, and five freshmen who are contributors.
St. Margaret’s plays host to Grand Terrace (8-15).
Junior guard Lauryn Ham of Pacifica Christian, the victim in a “sucker punch” incident in a club game in November 2021, averaged a team-high 17.3 points to help the Tritons reach the Division 2AA playoffs. She also has made a county-leading 100 3-pointers.
Pacifica Christian (17-10) plays at Crescenta Valley (23-5), ranked seventh in Division 2AA, on Thursday. …
Santa Margarita senior Maddie Leiva finished with a school-record 96 3-pointers. San Juan Hills senior Amanda Edwards has made a school-record 88 3-pointers entering the Division 2AA playoffs. …
Buena Park (20-6), the top seed in Division 4AA, dealt with injuries during Freeway League play and might be without one or two players for its playoff opener against visiting Elsinore (6-19) on Thursday, Coyotes coach DeAnthony Wiley said.