Right now, the Mary Star Of The Sea High boys & girls basketball teams are both off to great starts, each drawn a No.2 preseason ranking in the CIF-Southern Section with the boys in Division 4-A, and the girls in Division 5-AA. Both teams a season ago made substantial playoff runs with the boys reaching the semifinals, and the girls making the quarterfinals.
No one embodies both team’s respective styles more than boys junior shooting guard Joseph Octave and girls senior point guard Hanalei Emnace, who both grew into the sport at a very young age.
“Growing up, I always knew my dad was successful,” said Octave, who currently averaging 29.3 points and has scored 1,807 career points in two and a half seasons for the Stars. “And with my parents’ help, they guided me towards basketball. It was never any pressure and it just led me to fall in love with the game.”
Emnace, currently averaging 8.0 points, 4.5 assists and 5.0 steals for the girls team said: “I grew up in a basketball gym since my dad was a coach and would spend my Sundays watching my sister play. I wanted to be like them so I started playing myself and that carried on until high school.”
Octave, also a two-time All-Santa Fe League and 2017 All-CIF selection, proved last season how effective he is in clutch situations whenever Mary Star and coach Mike Sestich needed a basket.
Against Don Bosco Tech of Rosemead in a league encounter, Octave drove to the basket and made a running bank shot with 2.5 seconds left for a 48-46 victory. In a nonleague game against Malibu he scored 23 second-half points to pace the Stars to victory, even slam dunked three times. The CIF-SS Division 4-A quarterfinal showdown at Pacific of San Bernadino however, was when Octave turned it up a higher notch.
With the Stars trailing by two, Octave broke free for a layup with eight seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Then as the game went into a second overtime, he knocked down a game-tying three-pointer with seven ticks remaining to force a third overtime. Then with Pacific clinging to a 102-101 lead, Octave rebounded a missed layup and put it back in with 2.1 seconds left for the 103-102 victory.
“That was a great game for us,” said Octave, who scored 40 points in the win. “A lot of attention was focused on what I did, but if it weren’t for my teammates and coaches, I would not have been so successful. I thank God for allowing us to come through with some big wins last year.”
Octave, who scored a career-high 51 points in an 87-76 loss to Fremont of Los Angeles on January 4, has two Division I offers from Montana and San Jose State, and plays on the Cali Boost travel team on the Adidas circuit which is the highest level you can get on the AAU level. Octave plays in front of at least 20 Division I college coaches every game.
“It’s a nice challenge to get me ready for high school season and the next level,” Octave says.
While Octave does his job offensively for the boys, a defensive mindset is always first and foremost for Emnace and the girls.
“Defense wins championships and I’ve always been taught that defense is what makes a team great,” Emnace says. “But my favorite part about playing defense is anticipating what someone is going to do so I can get steals.”
That is something that Emnace is quite good at, and it gives the opposition plenty of headaches.
In two games last season, the two-time All-Santa Fe League selection posted double digits in steals, both against St. Pius X/St. Matthias Academy in league play. Emnace is not afraid to put her body at risk for the good of the team in drawing charges, something a lot of point guards shy away from doing.
Emnace’s defensive mentality is almost as of an Armed Forces drill instructor and is like an extended coach on the floor for fifth-year head coach Victor Tuberosi.
“Coach Vic has really taught me about passion and heart on the court, just giving my all whenever I’m on the court and being there for me teammates,” says Emnace, who also competes in swimming, track & field, and has played on four straight league title-winning volleyball teams. “I’ve also learned a lot about leadership while playing under Coach Vic and how I can make a difference in the girls’ attitude.“
Both Octave and Emnace are agreeable on a couple of things that help make their high school experience special: the strong Christian atmosphere and of course, the Gold Rush student section at home games.
“Everyone is so loving and caring,” Octave says. “(Principal Rita) Dever and all the teachers really put faith first and it makes the experience so amazing.”
Emnace also participated in the 2018 Rose Parade as one of 50 Gold Award-winning Girl Scouts during Opening Flag Ceremony and carry an award-winning float entry banner.
“I love being a Girl Scout because it’s truly an adventure,” Emnace says. “I’ve learned so much about myself, what I’m capable of and it has taught me how to be confident and sure of myself.”
(Note: Photo courtesy of John Mattera)