P2P NCS Girls Basketball Honors
Cardinal Newman's Hailey Vice-Neat is the Prep2Prep NCS Player of the Year. (Dylan Kattengell/Prep2Prep)


Player of the Year


The 6-foot-3 Vice-Neat was not the kind of loud, rah-rah leader that some players like to be, but because of her leadership there’s a reason “Chief” is her nickname, and there’s no question the Boise-State bound senior was the linchpin of the CIF North Coast Section Division IV champions and CIF Northern Regional Open Division runners-up.

“When she was younger she towered over everyone,” was the answer of Newman Coach Monica Mertle about how the Chief moniker started. “But since she came in as a freshman it’s become more than just her height. She helped us scrape to our first league title and playoff championship that year, and she’s been leading us and fighting and scraping ever since.”

Ever since is four straight North Bay League regular season and playoff titles, a CIF D4 state championship last season, and this year’s team that won a first-ever CIFNCS title and made the deep Open Division playoff run.

“As a team the progress that’s been made is phenomenal and her play and leadership has been an integral part of it,” continued Mertle. “Hailey impacts every part of the game besides leadership. Not only is she a great defender she can score and rebound, bring the ball up the court, and she’s ok with not scoring and finding a teammate for an assist.”

Just like she did when she drew two defenders with eight seconds left and then eschewed a jump shot from the free-throw line to hit Avery Cargill with a perfect pass for the winning layup in a 48-47 road victory over Carondelet in the NorCal Open first round.

When you look at the numbers Vice-Neat put up they don’t compare to some of the sizzling stats of others even on the P2P All North Coast Section First and Second teams. However, none of those girls led their school to a first section title, a final four in the toughest state championship division in the nation, a No. 4 finish in the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings, a top 50 national and top 10 finish in the state in the Maxpreps computer rankings, and the top spot in the P2P CIFNCS rankings.

With a team with three girls at or near 10 points a game, Vice-Neat averaged 12.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.8 steals and 2.6 blocks a game. But in a lot of games against state-ranked opponents her vise-like defense against the opponent’s top scorer usually was the difference. That was the case in particular against Carondelet and Pinewood when Vice-Neat and her teammates upset the apple cart as the No. 7 seed in the Open NorCals.

Against Carondelet she primarily matched up against senior 6-1 post Mikaela Vanderklugt and did the job inside while scoring 10 points with six rebounds, three assists and three blocks. It was the exact opposite in the NorCal Open semis 59-57 win at Pinewood-Los Altos Hills where she was on the perimeter defending leading scorer and three-point specialist Hannah Jump and held her to 11 points on 1-of-5 shooting from outside the arc. Meanwhile Vice-Neat went off for 24 points and nine rebounds (two blocks and steals) and she was the one draining the shots after hitting 6-of-8 on three-pointers.

In one of two victories this season over Sacred Heart Cathedral she held Cincinnati-bound San Francisco Chronicle Metro Player of the Year I’Imar’I Thomas to 12 points in a 68-58 victory in the third place game of the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree. She had her steady 12 points and 12 rebounds with seven assists.

When Vice-Neat guarded fellow P2P NCS first-teamer Haley Van Dyke the Campolindo scoring machine got 11 points but seven of them were in garbage time of an 85-54 victory. Meanwhile Vice-Neat coasted on offense and was one of five Cardinals in double figure scoring with 12 points while adding eight rebounds. There are other performances against top-notch teams that validate her selection but enough is enough.

Besides, the reality is Vice-Neat could have put up a lot bigger numbers had she played more minutes in league play but Mertle pulled her for the fourth quarter and even part of the third in NBL action, including the league playoff championship win over Santa Rosa. Mertle even yanked her early in all three of the NCS D4 playoff games. What she did is come through in the tough games and in the Open Division against the state’s top teams.

“Her numbers would have been a lot bigger but that’s not how I coach,” Mertle said about pulling her star. “Plus we have a lot of underclass players that benefited from getting minutes, and they helped us immensely in the playoff run.”

Vice-Neat is off to college in the fall after a sparkling four-year varsity career but Chief will long be remembered at Cardinal Newman as the girl that led the team to a remarkable season and was named the 2017 CIFNCS girls basketball Player of the Year.

Coach of the Year

Cardinal Newman's Monica Mertle is the choice for Prep2Prep NCS Coach of the Year.


We realize Mertle was the 2016 Preppy winner for overall Female Team Coach of the Year, and it’s nice to spread it around. However, the bottom line is in this new environment of competitive equity where teams now have to answer to those criteria when it comes to the CIF state and almost every section’s placement in the playoffs for basketball, the coaches and players need to be chosen for honors based on competitive equity as well.

For that very reason it’s a sweep for Cardinal Newman as Mertle joins Player of the Year Hailey Vice-Neat in receiving the top honor for coaches.

Yes, Mertle lost a couple of coaching battles with some of the other coaches considered for this award, but she won some too, and in the end she won the biggest enchilada of all when she guided a small rural Catholic school to a 30-4 record and the greatest season ever for a team from the Redwood Empire portion of the CIF North Coast Section.

The 2016 team she guided to the CIF Division IV title equaled the accomplishments of the 1982 Sir Francis Drake-San Anselmo team that won the small school state title, the 1986 Novato team that won the CIF Division II state championship, the 1992 CIF Division IV winning Ursuline-Santa Rosa for bearer to Cardinal Newman until the school closed after the 2010 season, The 1997 Rincon Valley Christian-Santa Rosa CIF D5 state champs, the 2002 Marin Catholic-Kentfield team that won the CIF Division D4 crown, and the back-to-back Branson 2007-08 Division V state titlists.

The difference is that this year’s group of Cardinals girls Mertle guided made it all the way the title game of the Northern Regional Open Division, and even though they didn’t win a state championship, none of the previously mentioned state champions ever played as tough a schedule as Mertle scheduled for the Cardinals this season, and they still won 30 games.

The result is Newman finished No. 4 in the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings and that’s miles higher than any other Redwood Empire team has ever finished. In fact, of the 10 finalists in a Northern Regional Open Division title game since the CIF went to an Open Division in 2013, Newman is obviously the only team ever from the Redwood Empire, but is one of five from the NCS and the only D4 enrollment school other than Salesian-Richmond to get as far as Mertle got them.

Mertle did have two seniors in Player of the Year Vice-Neat and 6-foot-5 University of Portland-bound P2P NCS second-teamer Lauren Walker, but the rest of her players were underclass and each has found a spot somewhere in the P2P All NCS selections.

Mertle now adds the P2P CIF North Coast Section girls basketball Coach of the Year award to the prestigious California Coaches Association Northern California Girls Basketball Coach of the Year for 2016/17 honor she recently was informed she had been awarded.

“The California Coaches award is amazing but this is a tremendous honor,” Mertle said when told she was the P2P winner. “I’ve been blessed to coach some amazing players who are even better people. Coaching and teaching at Cardinal Newman has helped me find balance between academic and athletic pursuits, which is what I hope for my players.”

Other coaches considered for this award and deserving recognition: Elgin Leslie of Carondelet, Malik McCord of Bishop O’Dowd, Rob Ocon of Heritage, Stephen Pezzola of Salesian, Kelly Sopak of Miramonte and Art Thoms of Campolindo


Angel Jackson, Salesian
Position: Center
Year: Sophomore

When the top player on a team that had no senior starters after Sierra Smith went down with an injury leads her team into the NorCal Open Division it really says something about the level of play Jackson showed all season. Had she not been pulled early in some league blowouts the 6-5 Jackson, who even as a sophomore is generally regarded as one of the top 3-4 post players in the state, would have higher numbers than her 11.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.8 blocks per game averages. She had a tough game in an early season loss to Campolindo, but in the rematch in the NCS D3 playoffs Jackson went for a triple-double with a season-high 25 points together with 12 rebounds and 10 blocks. Mitch Stephens called her a “game changer on defense” in naming her to the Chronicle All Metro Second Team and she certainly is that and the scary thing is she’s going to get a lot better.

Myah Pace, Bishop O’Dowd
Position: Guard
Year: Senior

The only senior starter on a team that was chosen for the Open NorCals and lost at Pinewood in the first round may have had her best game against the Cardinal Newman team that beat Pinewood in the semifinals. With O’Dowd down 28-14 at the MLK Showcase in Stockton at St. Mary’s she was knocked out of the game after getting hit in the neck but amazingly returned to lead a comeback and finish with a game-high 14 points with seven rebounds and three steals, and her defense was the difference in a 54-48 O’Dowd victory. On the season the University of San Diego-bound Pace averaged 13.4 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 4.2 steals a game.

Brianna Simonich, Carondelet
Position: Guard
Year: Senior

Simonich gets the nod for the fifth spot on the first team after nosing out Clair Steele of Miramonte. As the top player on the Cal-Hi Sports No. 8 team and the No. 2 team behind Cardinal Newman in both the state and P2P CIFNCS rankings she averaged a team high 12 points with eight rebounds a game. In the NorCal Open heartbreaking 48-47 loss to Cardinal Newman she finished with a game-high 16 points with seven rebounds. Her basket with 28 seconds left gave the Cougars a 47-46 lead but they couldn’t close it out.

Haley Van Dyke, Campolindo
Position: Guard
Year: Junior

If it was only about numbers Van Dyke would have been the Player of the Year, and it was still a very hard choice between her and Vice-Neat. What it came down to was competitive equity, however her Northern Regional record 46 points and 13 rebounds in the NorCal D3 title game 78-56 victory over St. Mary’s-Berkeley and 23.1 points and 15.7 rebounds per game averages last season still almost got her the nod. Her 25 rebounds in the CIF Division III state title game 62-45 loss to Rosary-Fullerton tied a CIF title game record. She had 29 points in a win and 21 points in a loss to Salesian but matched up against Vice-Neat she struggled. Still, it was a great season and Van Dyke still has one to go.

Hailey Vice-Neat, Cardinal Newman
Position: Guard
Year: Senior

The NCS Player of the Year was a tough choice over fellow first-teamers Haley Van Dyke and Myah Pace because her numbers were a bit skewed due to playing on a team with a lot of contributors. But the Boise State-bound Vice-Neat came through at the end of the season with key plays in the Open Division first round victory over Carondelet and followed that up with 24 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals in a 58-57 upset victory over host Pinewood in the semifinals that would not have happened without her efforts.


Ali Bamberger, Carondelet
Position: Forward
Year: Sophomore

Some all everything teams totally overlooked the 6-foot-3 post but a team doesn’t win the CIFNCS Division I playoffs, get chosen for the Open Division, and finish in the Top 10 in both the Maxpreps computer rankings and the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings without consistent solid scoring and rebounding, and that’s what Bamberger provided. On a very deep team Bamberger was second to Simonich in scoring at 11 points a game and her nine rebounds per game led the Cougars.

Makayla Edwards, Salesian
Position: Forward
Year: Sophomore

On a team with seven girls averaging six points a game or better and with players like Edwards getting subbed a lot or taken out in blowout games numbers don’t always tell the story. Although only 5-10 and playing nearly the entire season with a less than 100-pecent shoulder she often was matched up against taller girls but the big and strong Edwards was a big force inside and her double-double 14 points and 13 rebounds were a key in the 46-42 CIFNCS Division III title-game victory over Bishop O’Dowd. On the season she averaged 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Jada Holland, Bishop O’Dowd
Position: Guard
Year: Sophomore

The Dragons motor had a solid all around season that resulted in her being named to the West Alameda County – Foothill First team. Like most of the other girls from Open Division teams her numbers are not astronomical since the team was so deep and many of O’Dowd’s league games were over early. Her ball handling and defense were key in the MLK Showcase comeback win over Cardinal Newman and the home win over St. Mary’s-Stockton. On the season Holland averaged 10.5 points, 5.6 assists, 4.5 steals and 4.2 rebounds a game.

Clair Steele, Miramonte
Position: Guard
Year: Junior

After getting nosed out for first team selection based on applying competitive equity as part of the criteria Steele is the top choice for the second group of five. Steele averaged 15.9 points and 6.1 assists per game for the 30-4 Mats but it was at the end of the season when she came on strongest. In the Northern Regional Division II semifinals she had 34 points with five steals, four rebounds and three assists in a 69-63 victory over Valley Christian-San Jose. In a heartbreaking 66-65 loss in the NorCal title game at Vanden-Fairfield Steele had 28 points but it wasn’t quite enough.

Lauren Walker, Cardinal Newman
Position: Center
Year: Senior

The University of Portland-bound 6-5 post is the No. 2 big girl in the CIFNCS behind Jackson of Salesian so she naturally lands a spot on the second team. This past season she averaged 9.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game, however like her fellow Newman twin tower Vice-Neat her numbers would have been considerably higher had she not been taken out early in many games. In one of many games she shined Walker was 9-of-10 from the field and finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in the NCS D4 title game 62-31 win over St. Joseph-Notre Dame-Alameda. Against Carondelet in an Open 48-47 first round win she only had seven points but was aggressive on both ends and added 14 rebounds and four blocks.


Carolyn Gill, St. Mary’s
Position: Guard
Year: Senior

The top player on a team that despite losing twice in Tri-County – Rock League action to Salesian and also in the league playoffs gave the Pride everything it could handle. She had 19 points in a 47-38 loss to Salesian and 16 points in 56-55 heartbreaker. Gill also had 18 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in a 68-60 upset of top-seeded St. Ignatius in the Northern Regional Division III semifinals. On the season the ESPN No. 30 ranked senior guard in the nation led the team in every statistical category after finishing with per game averages of 13.2 points, 7.7 rebounds 3.6 assists 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks.

Taimane Lesa-Hardee, Salesian
Position: Guard
Year: Junior

Salesian was so deep it was hard to figure out just who should get the spot on the third team from a very young Pride group of girls that finished No. 9 in the Cal-Hi sports rankings. After looking at everything including the intangibles, the spot went to Lesa-Hardee who was the recipient of the Jim Capoot Memorial Award in the Platinum Division of the West Coast Jamboree that is awarded to the player that combines court play with sportsmanship and inspirational play in determining the winner.

Elle Louie, Miramonte
Position: Guard
Year: Senior

Just how important Louie was to the Matadors overall attack is exemplified by the fact she played at 20-perecent on a bad leg in the Northern Regional Division II title-game 66-65 loss to Vanden and that meant Miramonte was not only missing most of her 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game but her senior leadership and hard-nosed defense were impacted as well. Her numbers in the classroom are just as good where the Bio-medical engineering student-athlete carries a 4.2 GPA and turned down six mid-major offers to likely attend Dartmouth or UC San Diego.

Michaela Vanderklugt, Carondelet
Position: Forward
Year: Senior

The top three teams in the P2P CIFNCS and Cal-Hi Sports rankings each got a slot on the first, second and third teams and the 6-0 Vanderklugt was next in the Cougars pecking order after beating out Maaeva Dwiggins. Although she and the other Cougars suffered a heartbreaking season-ending loss to Cardinal Newman in the Open NorCals her inside play was a huge factor in the run to the CIFNCS D1 championship. On the season Vanderklugt averaged a steady eight points and eight rebounds a game.

Tal Webb, Cardinal Newman
Position: Guard
Year: Junior

Besides first and second teamers Vice-Neat and Walker the Cardinal Newman roster is full of girls that would be stars on most teams. We couldn’t put them all on the third team, so after careful evaluation the hard-nosed Webb barely edges out teammates Avery Cargill and Maiya Flores for a spot on the third team. Both Cargill and Flores had more points, and Cargill had more assists, but Webb had some true grit, and it started in the second half of a loss to Salesian at the West Coast Jamboree and continued. She had a team-high 11 points with five rebounds and three assists, plus she played torrid defense in the NorCal Open Carondelet win. She had 13 points in the upset of Pinewood as well and finished the season fourth on the team in scoring, third in rebounding, second in assists and first in steals.


ACALANES: Brooke Panfili
ALHAMBRA: Saelym Schmidt
AMERICAN: Ky’erra Sylva
ANALY: Bella Neidermair
ANTIOCH: Jazmine Davis
ARCATA: Vanessa Holland, Ashley Quigley, Kaylie McCracken
BERKELEY: Xinavane Foreman, Mia Finnie
BISHOP O'DOWD: Zakiya Mahoney, Daylee Dunn, Kayla Hankins
CALIFORNIA: Gabby Edmond
CAMPOLINDO: Ashley Thoms, Aubrey Wagner, Jessie O’Reilly
CARDINAL NEWMAN: Avery Cargill, Maiya Flores, Anya Choice
CARONDELET: Maaeva Dwiggins, Leah Walton
CASTRO VALLEY: Giana Wright, Bailey Jones
CONCORD: Ciara O’Kelley
DEER VALLEY: Brandi Edwards
DUBLIN: Lesila Finau
EL CERRITO: Anissah Dorsey
EUREKA: Kaylee Murphy
FOOTHILL: Madison Baxter
GRANADA: Riley Heffron
HERITAGE: Jordan Sweeney, Mikaila Wegenke, Sumni Da Silva, Abigail Muse
JAMES LOGAN: Indya Williams
JUSTIN-SIENA: Ashlee Whittemore
LIBERTY: Trudi Hartman
LIVERMORE: Regan Wiedenfeld
MIRAMONTE: Jordyn Bryant, Rebecca Welsh
MONTE VISTA: Alex Popper
MONTGOMERY: Shayla Newman
MT. EDEN: Destiny Jackson
PITTSBURG: Zorreia Rudolph
REDWOOD: Zoe Stachowski
SAINT MARY'S: Kennedi Villa, De’janae Evans
SALESIAN: Sydney Stewart, Anjel Galbraith, Nia Chinn, Sierra Smith
SAN MARIN: Shasta Parker
SANTA ROSA: Emily Codding
ST. JOSEPH NOTRE DAME: Malia Mastora, Kayla Nunn, Zhane Duckett
ST. PATRICK-ST. VINCENT: Wanapaleia Wong
STUART HALL: Darna Stewart
SWETT: Mia Stewart
TAMALPAIS: Jaiana Harris
UKIAH: Natae Henson