ALL-NORTH COAST SECTION
Player of the Year
SABRINA IONESCU, MIRAMONTE
By SCOTT GIORGIANNI
On the basketball court this past season, Sabrina Ionescu answered the bell like a boxer, dazzled like a performer on a high-wire act, and deconstructed defenses with the fluidity of a jazz
musician. And if her numbers — 28.5 points, 9.7 assists, 8.3 rebounds, and 5.5 steals per game — don’t speak volumes, certainly the most recent pieces of hardware do: the MaxPreps National
Player of the Year, and the Gatorade State Player of the Year. Throw in a 2016 NorCal championship, three NCS titles, a pair of Olympic medals, and the distinction of a top-five
national prospect, and it’s no wonder a few lucky colleges are all waiting with baited breath for her collegiate decision.
But Ionescu doesn’t glow in all the accolades or seek out the national attention. It’s not that she’s unappreciative; as she acknowledges, “I don’t pay much attention to any of the awards,
but any award is an award and I’m grateful for that.” It’s that she has only one goal: to see a “W” on the scoreboard. As a result, she has added one more award to her collection: Prep2Prep North
Coast Section Player of the Year.
Ionescu was destined for basketball. Her brother nine years her senior played, which gave Ionescu the chance to play regularly with bigger, faster, and better players. Though it was
fairly simple from there.
“I watched a lot of it, I enjoyed playing it, I played a lot, then I’m here now,” she says.
As far as basketball goes, she drew inspiration from multiple athletes.
“I just watched the game itself,” Ionescu says. “I learned a little from every one of them. I took different techniques from a variety of players.”
She also has a twin brother, Eddy, who’s made his own mark for the Miramonte boys.
Ionescu says her favorite part of the game is passing, and anyone who saw a few Miramonte games this season would understand. She’ll do whatever it takes to win. If she starts off
with a little cold shooting, she’ll find her teammates for open 3-pointers and on cuts to the basket. If she’s shooting well, she’ll put up strings of shots from beyond the arc, on drives
to the hoop, and on jumpers in between. She’s adept at drawing fouls, and converts them at a very high rate. In other words, she’s a huge asset if she’s on your team and a nightmare to
guard if she’s not.
The Mats went undefeated up until the State Championship final versus Chaminade. Many elite teams fell victim along the way, and Ionescu says that in the regular season the three
that stick out are Pinewood, Salesian, and SoCal giant Mater Dei. And though the postseason no doubt brought a higher intensity, for the most part Miramonte remained a steady ship.
“We didn’t change no matter what we were going into,” Ionescu says. “Our demeanor stayed the same.”
Ionescu graduates along with Keanna Delos Santos, Uriah Howard, and Jessie Wilson.
“We all played together for a long time,” Ionescu says. “(But) once you really understand the offense that we run, you’ll find that player whether you’ve played with them for 10 years
or if you’ve played with them for one.”
One of Ionescu’s biggest cheerleaders is her coach, Kelly Sopak. He’s coached her since she was in fourth or fifth grade and she credits him as being “a mentor, a fatherly figure.” While
Sopak experienced success before he came to Miramonte, at Northgate; before Ionescu’s arrival to the roster; and will continue to do so in the coming years, he knows what a special ride it’s been.
“It’s been a journey to say the least,” Sopak told Prep2Prep last month. “There has not been a day that has gone by in the last three years where I have not had some conversation to, for,
or about Sabrina Ionescu.”
“He helps us grow as individuals collectively and on and off the court,” Ionescu says. “Once you have a connection like that it can’t be taken away.”
Coach of the Year
JIM LEMMON, CASTRO VALLEY
Jim Lemmon led Castro Valley to its best season in school history to earn Prep2Prep NCS Coach of the Year honors.
By SCOTT GIORGIANNI
Castro Valley just had its best season in school history, and one man couldn’t be prouder of the girls who made that happen. That man is Jim Lemmon, the coach.
Now with nine years under his belt, the journey has not always been smooth. In 2012-13, the Trojans won just five games. Since then, Lemmon and company have steadily
gotten better, winning 17 the following season and 24 last year. There may have been question marks coming as two key seniors graduated in 2015, but then over the summer Lemmon was
at an airport when he received a most welcome surprise. He saw Nina Bessolo and her mom. And there he received the news that Bessolo, one of NorCal’s top players, was transferring from
Valley Christian-Dublin to Castro Valley.
“I looked it up,” Lemmon says. “We were elated when we found out.”
Bessolo, Giana Wright, and Bailey Jones turned out to be just the key pieces that Lemmon needed to turn a very good team into a NCS Division I title-winning team. As a result of the team's
success, Lemmon is the Prep2Prep North Coast Section Coach of the Year.
“Our talent level increased, our depth increased,” Lemmon says. “We worked hard in the offseason to improve our play.”
Castro Valley lost to Pittsburg in December, then to Bishop O’Dowd on January 13, and then the Trojans went on a tear that didn’t end until the NorCal Championship game against
Lemmon believed that the program was “trending up” even before Bessolo suited up for her first game, in January’s league opener. He calls Wright his “glue girl,” and she was
especially important this year since the team didn’t have a true post following the 2015 graduation of Jenna Sparks.
“Whatever it takes to win is what she wants to do,” says Lemmon. “She can score more than she does, and she does more than the statistics show that impact the game in a favorable way.”
With Wright in place to attack the boards and do the little things, and Bessolo on the wing to frustrate defenses and hit shots from all over the court, the Trojans needed
their promising young point guard to step up.
“She spent last summer working on her perimeter game,” Lemmon notes. “She’s helping create the winning environment that we want.”
With exciting speed and passing ability, and the tendency to go on scoring streaks, Jones gave the Trojans an offensive weapon that was hard to stop most nights. And just as
Wright helped make up for the graduation of Sparks, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder in 2014-15, Jones assuaged the loss of Elena Woo.
“We coach them hard, very direct,” Lemmon says. “But we also have individual conversations all the time. We want them to understand how we feel about them as kids and people.
You can’t treat them all the same, you’ve got to figure out which makes each kid go, which is probably the biggest challenge of all.”
It’s a challenge that Lemmon and his staff took to heart, and succeeded with. His assistants, like himself, come from a law enforcement background. Lemmon began coaching his own
children in CYO and AAU, settled well into the community, helped out the varsity program, and was eventually named head coach.
With postseason now firmly in the rear-view mirror, Lemmon and his staff are about to prepare the girls in skill work and conditioning. The team’s success has already produced
good things for next year and beyond: Castro Valley recently made a deal with Salesian to play a Foundation Game. But ultimately, Lemmon looks beyond the hardwood.
“What we want them to take away from this is to compete in the right way,” Lemmon says. “Right now it’s school, basketball, and academics. Later it will be jobs, relationships,
and anything else they get involved in.”
Lemmon also aims for compliments from other coaches: “If another coach says ‘It’s unbelievable how awesome your kids play’ that’s the compliment we want.”
He recalls a time during summer league last year when he was trying to get Jack Kennedy to come help coach.
“I told him, ‘Jack, I think this team has a chance to win state.’ He said ‘Is this everybody?’ We were able to talk him into helping out.”
Whatever happens next season, Lemmon believes that this season’s success will spark something in the girls.
“Now that they’ve experienced winning, I think they’re hungry,” Lemmon says. “We want to show it wasn’t just a one-year thing.”
Senior of the Year
MINYON MOORE, SALESIAN
Moore’s numbers were eye candy for Division I schools: 21 points, 5.2 steals, 4.8 assists, and 4.1 rebounds. Leading a top-ranked team to an NCS Championship doesn’t hurt, either.
Moore’s competitive desire is second to none, and that combined with her talents confirmed her status as one of the best players in all of Northern California. She had a combined 59
points and 19 steals in the NCS semifinal and final. Minyon’s older sister Mariya left huge shoes to fill, but the younger Moore never shied away from the challenge, and carved
out a legacy of her own.
Junior of the Year
MYAH PACE, BISHOP O’DOWD
Pace didn’t fit into any neat categories, and that was a good thing for the Dragons in 2015-16. Without much of a true post in the lineup, Pace could haul down rebounds and guard the interior
like a center. And without a true point guard such as Asha Thomas running the show, Pace often directed the offense and found teammates for open looks. Combined she had numbers to cover
both ends of the spectrum (10 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, along with 13 points) and was the most consistent and reliable scorer on the team.
Sophomore of the Year
HALEY VAN DYKE, CAMPOLNDO
Van Dyke was the leader in every major category for the Cougars, tallying 18.8 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.2 steals, 4.0 assists, and 3.1 blocks per game in the regular season. That was
significant improvement on a freshman campaign that was impressive in its own right. Van Dyke seemed to be a factor in every play on both ends of the floor, and powered a young and
talented squad which won 25 games and made it to the NorCal semifinals. She had fine performances in each postseason game.
Freshman of the Year
ANGEL JACKSON, SALESIAN
Jackson garnered a lot of buzz coming into this season, and she delivered, averaging 8.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game. She registered a triple-double against St. Joseph
Notre Dame and contributed 10 points, nine boards, and three blocks in the NCS Division IV title-win against Cardinal Newman. Standing 6-5, she served as an imposing presence defensively
and should only get better on the offensive end.
FIRST TEAM ALL-NCS
Nina Bessolo, Castro Valley
As a transfer from a Division V private school to a Division I public school, Bessolo fit right in and led the Trojans to a NCS Championship and to the brink of the NorCal finals. She
averaged 17.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.0 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game. She was impressive in the postseason, averaging over 21 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks per game. The UC Davis
commit was a wonderful outlet for the young point guard Bailey Jones, and proved herself one of the most long and capable players in the game.
Uriah Howard, Miramonte
Howard, experiencing the first injury-free season of her career, rattled the opposition on the interior with 13.8 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds per game. She’ll take her talents
to Eastern Washington next season.
Sabrina Ionescu, Miramonte
The Gatorade State Player of the Year tallied 28.5 points, 9.7 assists, 8.3 rebounds, and 5.5 steals per game, and helped the Mats to an undefeated record up until the State Championship.
Her relentless hustle disrupted offenses and opened up many opportunities which she and her teammates cashed in with regularity, and her free throw accuracy and long-distance range were unparalleled.
Minyon Moore, Salesian
The USC-commit finished with averages of 21 points, 5.2 steals, 4.8 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game. Able to slice through the lane and knock down three-pointers, and with a high
defensive intensity and ability to play bigger than her size, Moore orchestrated another banner season for Salesian.
Myah Pace, Bishop O’Dowd
A coach’s dream, the lean 6-0 junior broke through defenses with regularity, drilled shots from mid-range and beyond, and was a de facto center and a point guard on a Dragons squad that
just about cracked the top 20 and made it to the NorCal championship. She averaged 13.7 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and four steals per game. She had 24 points, 12 boards, six assists,
five steals, and four blocks against Brookside Christian, a great example of her versatility.
SECOND TEAM ALL-NCS
Keanna Delos Santos, Miramonte
Delos Santos averaged 13.5 points per game on a team which blistered through league play and knocked down many elite opponents en route to a NorCal championship. The Utah Valley State
commit loved to knock down 3-pointers with a silky shooting touch, but fit in beautifully in a fast-break offense as well.
Brianna Simonich, Carondelet
Simonich patrolled the paint and displayed an impressive perimeter game as well. The top player on an Open Division team, she averaged 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. She played
well against tough opponents, such as scoring a team-high 16 points in the NCS Division II championship win over Acalanes.
Haley Van Dyke, Campolindo
Van Dyke averaged 18.8 points, 12.9 boards, 4.2 steals, 4.0 assists, and 3.1 blocks a night. Dominating the paint and comfortable shooting and distributing from the perimeter, she led the
Cougars to 25-6 record and averaged 20 points, nine rebounds, nearly six assists, and three blocks in three NCS playoff games.
Hailey Vice-Neat, Cardinal Newman
Standing 6-3, but with the body and ability to play like a guard, Vice-Neat was the best player on a state champion. She was effective knocking down shots from multiple spots on the floor
and a force on defense. She came through huge in both the NorCal and State title games, averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds over the two games.
THIRD TEAM ALL-NCS
Vanessa Cruz, Carondelet
Cruz’s role this year was crucial, as she directed an offense full of juniors and freshmen, and formed a dynamic tandem with Brianna Simonich. She averaged 9.4 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.1
rebounds a game to pace the Cougars to another undefeated season in the EBAL.
Lesila Finau, Dublin
Finau, taking over point guard duties from the electric Milan Moses, had a breakout year in her first opportunity. She averaged 15.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 steals, 3.0 assists,
and 2.3 blocks per game, and led Dublin to the brink of a NorCal Championship appearance.
Emma Godfrey, Roni Marrone, Brooke Panfili
Vanessa Holland, Kaylie McCracken, Ashley Quigley
Xinavane Foreman, Shani Jones
Salihah Bey, Aerial Chavarin, Zakiya Mahoney
CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF:
Brianna Dike, Farrah Harmount
Emily Lyall, Ashley Thoms, Aubrey Wagner
Avery Cargill, Maiya Flores, Lauren Walker
Bailey Jones, Giana Wright
Bridget Hyland, Kelly Osterkamp
Ciara O’Kelley, Alyssa Pluth, Jessica Solis
Tiaja Andrews, Alanna Lee
Jassemine Johnson, Makaya Thomas
Madison Baxter, Sophia Brown, Caroline McMorrow
Leah Gray, Alyssa Rodriguez
Delaney Sparling, Jordan Sweeney, Mikaila Wegenke
Kaily Bigley, Jamesha Green
Elle Louie, Clair Steele
MISSION SAN JOSE:
Erikka Linn, Stephanie Tu
Tiara Banford, Haylee Nelson
Kelsey Fennell, Jasmyne Huggins
Arriel Cobb, Jessica Rogers
Adorah Buggs, Seuvahnia Kuka, Kiara Stanton
Keana Thompson, Kennedi Villa
Jordan Hobson, Angel Jackson
ST. JOSEPH NOTRE DAME:
Ayessa Kearns, Mira Love-Sangco, Kayla Nunn
ST. PATRICK-ST. VINCENT:
Selena Caoile, Wanna Wong
ST. VINCENT DE PAUL:
Amari Allison, Jaiana Harris, Megan Lee