With no final state championship as a crowning moment, we revert back to the entirety of the season to name the 2020 State Team of the Year for girls basketball and for only the fourth time ever it goes to a school from the CIF San Diego Section. We have State Teams of the Year for girls back to before there were even CIF state finals so not having them for this season does not matter.
Instead of watching La Jolla Country Day square off against Archbishop Mitty of San Jose at the Golden 1 Arena in Sacramento last Saturday evening for the CIF Open Division state championship, March 14 was spent starting the State Team of the Year feature with a text message to Country Day head coach Terri Bamford informing her that her Torreys were the 2019-2020 winner for girls basketball.
“So cool!!! Thank you,” was Bamford’s initial response to the news.
Being named the State Team of the Year since the CIF established an Open Division in 2012 has gone to the Open Division winner the past eight years, and while not getting a shot to snag that crown is the ultimate disappointment, the kind of season Country Day had made it a runaway choice after it was announced that the games this year in the state capitol had been canceled by the CIF due to concerns regarding the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Yes, I think it does,” responded Bamford when asked if being named State Team of the Year is going to help ease the disappointment of not getting the opportunity to win the Open title or put a stamp on a season that has all the human and computer rankings naming Country Day as not only the top team in the Golden State but the entire nation. “The abruptness of how the season ended was the biggest shock. Knowing we’re not going to play again as a team or ever practice again.”
“Although we are very disappointed this does not take away from all the great things the Torreys girls basketball team has accomplished this 2019-2020 season,” continued Bamford. “I had the best season of my life as a coach and I know the team had the best season in La Jolla Country Day history. The players were so coachable, they loved and cheered for each other. No one cared who the scoring leader was, they only cared about the team winning. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to coach this amazing group. I have the best team and coaching staff in the nation. Love this team.”
La Jolla Country Day is only the fourth team from the CIF San Diego Section to be No. 1 in the state for girls basketball. The last time was in 1987 when Point Loma of San Diego and the legendary Terri Mann completed a 34-0 season and was State Team of the Year for the second straight season. The only other one on the list is 18-0 Hilltop of Chula Vista for 1975.
Archbishop Mitty, this year’s NorCal Open Division champion guided by head coach Sue Phillips, was State Team of the Year for 1999 and would have had to defeat La Jolla Country Day in the state final in order to move ahead of the Torreys due to a head-to-head loss from earlier in the season.
From 1986-1990 at Escondido San Pasqual and since 1997 when she took the helm at La Jolla Country Day, Bamford has had some great teams and won four CIF state championships, but none in the Open Division.
This year’s team, with Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year leading candidate and Oregon-bound senior Te-hina Paopao and sensational 6-foot-3 freshman post Breya Cunningham leading the way, tied for the best record in school history when their 32-1 finish tied the 2012 team.
The 2012 team won the CIF Division IV state championship and earned Bamford the Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year award. The other three state titles all came in Division V, most recently in 2015.
The 2019-2020 team could have gotten victory No. 33 and won an Open title, two things that would have been a first, so their resume that now includes a first-ever State Team of the Year selection is slightly incomplete due to circumstances, and that makes comparisons a little difficult, but of course we asked Bamford to make some comparisons and explain why she feels this team had the best season in school history.
“I’ve had some great teams and it’s very hard to compare,” Bamford answered. “But this season we went 32-1 in the Open Division and played the toughest schedule in the history of La Jolla Country Day.”
“This team can be compared to the 2012 team,” Bamford continued. “We finished with the same 32-1 record and like this year we only lost one game and that was to Long Beach Poly in the Oaks Christian tournament. The team was led by Kelsey Plum and Maya and Malina Hood and went on to win the CIF Division IV state championship defeating Salesian (Richmond). This year’s team had the opportunity to finish 33-1 and with an Open Division championship but didn’t get the opportunity.”
To get where they were before the rug was pulled out from under them took a total team effort and not just Paopao and Cunningham, although the top outside-inside duo in the state and possibly the nation, was a huge part of the success.
“We have nine talented players who all know and accept their role and this is what made this team so special,” Bamford said. “Te-hina Paopao at full strength and healthy is the leader of this squad and I feel the best player in the country. She’s a great leader, great person, high IQ, and puts the team before her personal accolades. They don’t come any better.”
Paopao went for a double-double 22 points and 10 rebounds with five assists in the CIF Southern Regional Open Division semifinal 54-44 victory over Etiwanda, and in an amazing performance in the Torreys 59-48 SoCal Open title game victory over Windward of Los Angeles she had 30 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocked shots. Paopao literally put the team on her shoulders when she scored 14 of her points in the fourth quarter. On the season Paopao finished with per game averages of 22.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.2 steals.
While covering the San Diego Classic last summer we stopped at La Jolla Country day and all Bamford and Paopao could talk about was Cunningham and how she would complement Paopao and add to the Torreys’ attack. At the time, Paopao felt with Cunningham at her side the team had a chance to win it all, and they came as close as anyone could in this season that had a bizarre ending.
“Breya is quiet and humble, but a beast on the court. She had an immediate impact on the team,” Bamford remarked.
Cunningham had two double-doubles in the final two games after getting 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds with four blocks against Etiwanda, and 16 points and 13 rebounds with four blocks in the Windward win. On the season she averaged 17.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game. The double-double machine had 25 of them in 33 games.
A girl that played a key role for Country Day was junior Jazzy Anousinh. She was third on the team in scoring at 8.5 points per game and led the team with 5.0 assists per game. She also made the layup high off the glass in the final seconds that gave Country Day a 44-43 victory in the top division of the Nike TOC over last year’s State Team of the Year and defending CIF Open Division state champion Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth.
“Jazzy is a tough point guard with a high basketball IQ and is not afraid to take the big shots,” Bamford said. “She’s our ‘clutch player of the year.’ Besides the buzzer-beater lay-up versus Sierra Canyon to win the TOC she also hit an NBA-range three-pointer to beat Cathedral Catholic in double-overtime.”
According to Bamford, seniors Pua Tufaga and Paris Atchley “were our defensive leaders both willing to take charges, rebound and both gave us timely scoring when we needed it.”
Bamford called senior Bobi Mack the team’s “sixth player of the year that came off the bench and gave us a big scoring boost with her three-point range.”
Bamford remarked that freshman Sumayah Sugapong “is one of the toughest, fearless freshman point guards that can score and defend.” She came off the bench against Windward and nailed a long three-pointer at the halftime buzzer that gave Country Day a 24-22 halftime lead it never relinquished.
Not wanting to leave anyone out Bamford gave a shout out to her two sophomores, guards Destiny Villareal and Alana Fesili who “gave our team great minutes.”
“The first day of practice I knew we were going to be special but didn’t know how special,” Bamford said. “We had seven returning players from last year’s Division I regional runner-up and then we added two very talented freshmen with Breya Cunningham being the missing piece.”
“We won the Mark Keppel Invitational defeating Rosary then went on to win our Sweet 16 Invitational defeating (Colorado) Highlands Ranch,” Bamford continued. “I knew we were special but we would be tested at the Nike TOC, and when we won that and received the number one ranking in the country that was validation of special.”
Bamford, who would have gone for career coaching win No. 627 if the game against Mitty had been played, likely would be well over 700 wins had she not coached for six years at Palomar and Mira Costa junior colleges after her stint at San Pasqual and before she started at Country Day, but under the circumstances she had other things on her mind when asked if there was anything she wanted to add in conclusion.
“Another reminder that life is bigger than sports and we pray for those who have the virus and ask for protection for those that don’t. Thank you Torreys Nation, coaches, players, parents, teachers, administrators and all the supporters of Torreys women’s basketball, for a dream season.”
Congratulations to La Jolla Country Day on its selection as the Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year and its outstanding season but one we hope never ends the same way again.
Cal-Hi Sports Girls Basketball State Teams of the Year All-Time List
2020 – La Jolla Country Day (32-1)
2019 – Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (33-1)
2018 – Los Angeles Windward (27-3)
2017 – Fresno Clovis West (34-2)
2016 – West Hills Chaminade (31-4)
2015 – Stockton St. Mary’s (34-1)
2014 – Long Beach Poly (27-3)
2013 – Oakland Bishop O’Dowd (30-3)
2012 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-3)
2011 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-1)
2010 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (32-1)
2009 – Brea Olinda Brea (33-2)
2008 – San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral (33-0)
2007 – Long Beach Poly (36-1)
2006 – Fullerton Troy (33-1)
2005 – Piedmont (32-2)
2004 – Piedmont (33-2)
2003 – Lynwood (32-1)
2002 – Lynwood (32-0)
2001 – Harbor City Narbonne (28-3)
2000 – Harbor City Narbonne (34-0)
1999 – San Jose Archbishop Mitty (31-0)
1998 – Harbor City Narbonne (32-1)*
1997 – Berkeley (29-3)
1996 – Irvine Woodbridge (32-2)
1995 – Irvine Woodbridge (33-1)
1994 – Brea Olinda Brea (33-0)
1993 – Lynwood (31-0)
1992 – RH Estates Peninsula (33-0)
1991 – Berkeley (30-2)
1990 – Inglewood Morningside (32-3)
1989 – Inglewood Morningside (33-1)
1988 – Fremont Oakland (28-0)**
1987 – San Diego Point Loma (34-0)
1986 – San Diego Point Loma (31-1)
1985 – Compton (26-0)
1984 – Ventura Buena (31-0)
1983 – Ventura Buena (28-4)
1982 – Riverside Poly (34-0)
1981 – Riverside Poly (29-0)
1980 – Berkeley (29-0)
1979 – Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1978 – Huntington Beach (25-2)
1977 – Los Angeles (16-0)
1976 – Ventura (23-0)
1975 – Chula Vista Hilltop (18-0)
1974 – Berkeley (19-1)
1973 – Fresno San Joaquin Memorial (12-0)
1972 – Ventura Buena (8-0)
*Forfeit losses not included. CIF Division I state title vacated due to residency issues.
**Eleven wins forfeited due to use of ineligible player.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend