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1996-97 GIRLS' BASKETBALL PREVIEW

Empire League

December 10, 1996|MARTIN HENDERSON

Century: 21-4, 9-1 in 1995-96. Coach: Jeff Watts (seventh year, 78-65). Prospects: The Centurions went out on a tough note last year, losing the last game of the regular season to El Dorado, 49-41, then losing, 40-38, to Downey, an at-large team in the playoffs. Playing inside won't be tough for Century because it has two of the county's top players (both 6-2), sophomore Aprile Powell, who averaged 17 points and 11.3 rebounds, and Allison Napier (12.2 points, 8.9 rebounds). A third starter, junior Yvette Martinez (5-6), missed most of the season with an injury, but averaged six assists. Guard Addie Alexander (5-7, nine points) and junior forward Nikki Love (6-3, eight points) can also be impact players for Century, which is looking for its seventh consecutive playoff appearance and its second league title--in any girls' sport.

Cypress: 11-15, 3-7 in 1995-96. Coach: Doug Mitchell (second year, 11-15). Prospects: The Centurions might be the league's dark horse pick. Five starters return from last year's team, including senior Stacy Silva (5-11, 9.4 points); her 14.2 rebounds were the county's second-best average. Other starters include sophomore guards Lyndsay Weaver and Kirsten Wong, and seniors Vivian Cheun (5-9) and Jennifer Laster (5-8). The problem: there's not much height in a league that has plenty.

El Dorado: 19-6, 9-1 in 1995-96. Coach: Wayne Carlson (first year). Prospects: Carlson is the team's third coach in three years, replacing Tara Brown. One holdover from the Gary Raya era is four-year starting guard Jamie Nebeker (5-8, 12 points, four assists), one of the county's top players. Good thing, too, because center Heather Cunningham graduated and defensive stalwart Beau Bryant chose not to return. As the only returning starter, Nebeker needs help from junior guards Alexis Graves (5-7) and Yvette de Bruijn (5-6), the third in a line of sisters who previously made all-league teams. De Bruijn's defensive play against Powell--holding her to six points despite an 11-inch height disadvantage--was instrumental in El Dorado's final regular-season victory over Century to earn a share of the league title. The Golden Hawks can't complain about their size: Stephanie Patten (6-0) returns, and junior newcomers Melissa Van Natta (6-0), Jennie Bluth (6-1) and Carrie Gadd (6-0), sister of former Troy standout Jennie, join the team.

Katella: 11-14, 4-6 in 1995-96. Coach: Jim Germinaro (second year, 11-14). Prospects: Katella is an intriguing team because this group of girls has a 23-7 record in league together through the lower levels. Point guard Lynn Kaneshiro and post player Catherine Painter (6-0, 7.5 rebounds) return as starters. Guard Diandra Jay shot 41.3% from beyond the three-point line last year, the county's fifth-best average among players attempting at least three shots per game. If they can't win the league title, they could determine who does.

Kennedy: 7-17, 1-9 in 1995-96. Coach: Manny Anaya (first year). Prospects: Anaya is the team's third coach in a year. Marc Harrison resigned, and John Selbe resigned after becoming assistant athletic director at Loara. Point guard Allison Chow, a sophomore, and junior center Natalie Gallaher (5-11) return to a young, short team.

Loara: 14-10, 4-6 in 1995-96. Coach: Shelly Noble (first year). Prospects: The Saxons were hurt by the defection of two of their best players last year, Christina Colon and her sister, Anita, to Mater Dei. However, they also benefited by getting a transfer, Brandie Mercer, from Western. Mercer, a 5-8 junior forward, averaged 8.6 rebounds. Two starters return, Jahel Jamieson, a 5-6 guard, and junior Betsy Holman, a 5-10 forward. The Saxons should be quick, but they will be young.

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