The 2019-2020 San Pedro Prep Basketball season has been in full swing for over a month now, and all six combined boys and girls teams from San Pedro, Mary Star Of The Sea and Port Of Los Angeles High Schools are looking to make potential runs in the postseason, while the boys and girls teams of Mary Star both have the most optimistic chances of winning a league championship.
Who will make the biggest shot of them all?
MARY STAR – Four-time San Pedro News Pilot Prep Boys Basketball Player Of The Year & Mary Star's all-time leading scorer Joseph Octave is no longer around, but the Stars and fourth-year coach Mike Sestich aren't void of talent.
Testing themselves early in tournament play against several talented teams has Mary Star off to a current 6-9 start, but the two-time defending Santa Fe League co-champions still stand a good chance of winning the league crown outright if it can thwart off fellow two-time defending co-champion Salesian of Los Angeles and heavily improved St. Pius X/St. Matthias Academy.
The All-Santa Fe League senior guard tandem of Adrian Alvarez and Aaron Martinez leads the way, while senior forward Henner Joseph will play a more prominent role in the starting lineup alongside them. An up-tempo style is still what Sestich prefers with for Mary Star, even with 6'10'' international transfer from Sudan, center Yel Deng now in the mix. Another Star primed to break out is senior G/F Chandler Blackwell.
SAN PEDRO – Longtime prep boys basketball head coach John Bobich, owner of seven CIF titles (5 at Pacific Hills and 2 at San Pedro) is now in his 19th season for the Pirates, who placed third in the Marine League and reached the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division 1 quarterfinals last season, where it lost by two points in the closing seconds to Marine League rival Banning of Wilmington.
All-Marine League senior guard Ian Hietala has shown the capability of making the difficult shots a lot more consistently this season for the Pirates, currently off to an 8-5 season. San Pedro inherits a young team that still has experience with the likes of Hietala, junior forward Robby DiStefano, senior guard Jerad Braff and senior guard Jackson Wimberly, a 5'9'' slasher with leaping ability. Wimberly dunked in the Pirates' season opening 78-60 win at Bravo Medical Magnet on November 25.
Jackson's brother, sophomore guard Boston Wimberly has been a key new addition, as has freshman guard Anthony Hrboka.
PORT OF LOS ANGELES - Now in his third season as coach, Spenser Schulte has high hopes for the Polar Bears, who made another appearance in the CIF-LACS Division 4 playoffs.
With powerhouses Washington Prep and King-Drew Medical now in the Coliseum League, chances of capturing an Imperial League championship dramatically increased, but Jordan (who leaves the Eastern League) appears to be the favorite, already defeating the Polar Bears by 20 points in December.
Senior guard Devin DeLozier, junior guard Victor Alvarado, senior forward Elijah Hardy and senior guard Delevar Lorica are the key players for POLA, while senior forward Micah Wilkes has been a great help.
MARY STAR – Last year was very good for the Stars and seventh-year coach Victor Tuberosi, as they made two distinctive postseason runs, reaching the CIF-Southern Section Division 5-AA semifinals for the second straight season, and even reaching the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern California Division 5 Regionals.
And so far this season, the Stars are off to a 10-6 start, reaching the finals of the Downey Calvary Chapel Tournament, winning the St. Monica Tournament, and soundly defeating neighbor San Pedro for a great finish to 2019.
Now the Stars have higher hopes of trying to win a league championship for the first time since 1984, but will have to defeat both defending Santa Fe League champion St. Genevieve and St. Pius X/St. Matthias Academy for those dreams to become reality.
Mary Star returns most of their players from last year's history-making squad, including the likes of All-CIF selection junior guard Isabella Serrano, senior guard and two-sport athlete Sarah Leyba, and two more junior guards Kaitlyn Oasay and Cristina Camacho.
Senior forward Jenna Miloe and two talented freshmen in guards Bella Marconi and Paula Serrano (Isabella's sister), also are critical to the Stars' recipe for success.
SAN PEDRO – Kevin Simpson takes over the coaching spot for the Lady Pirates, and have been brutally tested facing top notch teams in the early going. Yet, San Pedro will look to turn the corner in what seems to be a more competitive Marine League, which still has powerhouse Narbonne of Harbor City as the prohibitive favorite.
The junior trio of center Gianna Dileva and the guard tandem of Courtney Marshall and Annalisa Banuelos have carried the workload for the Pirates, as is senior forward Stormy Carter. All-Marine League senior power forward Adri'yanna Edmonds will return at the start of Marine League play on January 15 against Rancho Dominguez.
San Pedro reached the CIF-LACS Division 2 quarterfinals last season.
Sophomore guard Gezelle Garcia is the top newcomer.
PORT OF LOS ANGELES – The Polar Bears reached the CIF-LACS Division 4 playoffs last season, and will be paced by senior point guard Annie Le, along with the duo of senior forward Kaylen Scott and freshman guard Sasha Suggs, the latter two are familiar to everyone else at the San Pedro-based Charter school campus.
Scott and Suggs both played massive roles in pacing the POLA girls volleyball team to the CIF-LACS Division 4 championship two months ago. In fact, Scott was the 2019 CIF-LACS Division 4 Player Of The Year, and Suggs was also an All-City Division 4 selection.
(Note: Photos by Miguel Elliot)