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Kennedy Envisions Revival After Friends Join Forces

Girls: Three transfers from Taft give Golden Cougars chance to revisit their golden past.


The idea was hatched, ironically enough, at the Just Say No club basketball tournament last summer. Taft High's Vanessa Dunn and Monia Calhoun were teammates of Kennedy's Coyles Scarbrough and Tamaya Morris.

"Wouldn't it be great if we all played on the same high school team?," they said to one another after advancing to the tournament semifinals.

Dunn and Calhoun, both 5-foot-10 senior forwards, just said yes to transferring under open enrollment, and they soon were joined by Rosie Ortiz, Taft's 6-foot senior center.

Kennedy Coach Donis Bailey welcomed the tall trio, envisioning the Golden Cougars' golden period in the 1970s and '80s when the team won 140 consecutive league games and took the City Section 4-A Division championship three times.

"This should be a return to that time, yes," said Bailey, Kennedy's coach since 1990. She was an assistant under Craig Raub when the Golden Cougars won City titles in 1986 and '87.

Kennedy was 12-12 last season, but Scarbrough, a 5-9 wing, and Morris, a quick point guard, were the best players. They are seniors and four-year starters. Three-point specialist Akane Maruyama is another returning starter.

Meanwhile, Taft was 20-1, breezing to the West Valley League title before losing in the playoff quarterfinals to Washington. The Toreadors best players were Dunn, Calhoun and Ortiz.

Having combined forces, the girls believe they can challenge traditional powers Washington, Crenshaw and Banning for the City championship.

"Coyles and Tamaya are great ballplayers," said Dunn, an all-City player two years in a row who averaged 16.2 points last season. "We are going to make a run for it all."

Bailey has moved Dunn and Calhoun, who averaged 15.2 points, out from under the basket to increase their versatility. Ortiz will be counted on for rebounds.

"They are very coachable young ladies," Bailey said. "They really take direction well."

Taft assistant coach Brian Lewis, a walk-on, wanted to accompany Dunn, Calhoun and Ortiz to Kennedy, a move Bailey welcomed, but administrators wouldn't allow it.

"Evidently Taft people thought he was recruiting," Bailey said. "But it was the girls who got together."

Other teams to watch:

* North Hollywood: The only City team in the Valley with talent close to Kennedy's is North Hollywood, which has won six consecutive league championships and has a league record of 118-15 in Coach Rich Allen's 15 seasons.

The Huskies were 19-4 last season behind guards Lindsay Sotero-Higa and Stephanie Wasserman, seniors who combined for 92 three-point baskets. Wasserman has made recruiting trips to UC Davis and UC Riverside.

They are joined by sophomore guard Tashean Thomas, who had an excellent summer, and 5-7 transfer Markia Derby, who moved to Los Angeles from North Carolina.

The fifth starter in the team's four-guard alignment is 5-11 center Claudia Villa.

"Getting [Derby] is a break," Allen said. "She played on a state runner-up team last year and she has a lot of skills. She jumps very well and shoots well."

North Hollywood does not play Kennedy during the regular season, but both teams are entered in the Bell-Jeff tournament in December.

* El Camino Real: The Conquistadores, who finished 10-7 and tied for second in the West Valley League, lost Tami Jones, who averaged 20.8 points and was one of the best players in the City. The top returner is Aja Diamond, an excellent ball-handler and unselfish point guard who averaged 6.9 assists and 4.5 steals.

Cara Blumfield, a sophomore guard and three-sport athlete, has transferred from Calabasas, where she was an all-Frontier League selection as a freshman. Blumfield averaged 12.9 points, 5.2 assists and 3.6 steals for Calabasas.

"Aja is a great leader and ballhandler," Coach Lori Chandler said. "And Cara is a great shooter. She's money every time she puts it up."

Andrea Cohen, a junior transfer from Granada Hills, and Justina Williams, a senior small forward, also will be counted on. Danielle Sharp (6-2) and Luisa Cortez (5-10) will play inside.

* Chatsworth: After going 20-7, dominating the North Valley League with a 9-1 record and advancing to the 3-A final last season, the Chancellors have moved to the 4-A West Valley League, trading places with Granada Hills.

The transition could be rough. Four starters graduated, and the other, Sara Gudis, transferred to Alemany.

But Coach Emad Whitney is excited about an infusion of young talent.

Irene Rodriguez is the most experienced returner, but Patricia Nuno, a junior point guard who transferred from Littlerock, will be the ignition switch.

Freshman guard Alice Elias and junior forward Gina Everett, a transfer from Alemany, also will contribute.

* Grant: The Lancers are another team that has been promoted to 4-A after winning a 3-A league, moving from the East Valley to the Mid-Valley after going 14-6 last season. Sylmar moves from the Mid-Valley to the East Valley.

Like Chatsworth, Grant graduated most of its talent, eight seniors in all. Forwards Nakeisha Perkins (6-0) and Kate Ayvar (5-10) are the only returners with experience.

Perkins, a junior, averaged 13 points and 14.5 rebounds last season. Ayvar is the only senior.

"Nakeisha could be a dominant player in the league," Coach Steve Brumwell said.

Angela Terry, a 5-10 junior who is a good shot blocker, gives Grant even more strength inside. Jenny Mallon provides an outside shooting threat.

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