When the 2019-2020 school year was booming into the Spring, all high school sports everywhere was cancelled on March 14, 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak, ending the hopes and dreams of potentially make a run for a CIF Sectional championship for everyone who had them.
Some were still hopeful that once things calmed down that sports would make a return, which it did, amazingly. Others still wondered if some sports would return at all, and one of the sports that were in serious doubt especially because it's one of the main ones played indoors, was basketball.
Many adjustments were made to get the sport running, which included spreading out the team benches on each side of the scorers table and simply not have fans, just selected administrators, along with the teams, and referees themselves to somehow slow down the spread of the virus.
The early part of May provided even more hope that some normalcy would return to the court, and one San Pedro Prep Sports program in particular, took full advantage of it.
Just getting back to high school sports in any capacity without knowing the immediate future was worthy of all teams who participated of being called champion, but, the Mary Star Of The Sea High School girls basketball team turned all potential critics into perpetual believers, and if no one even knew or tried to forget the school even existed, they all know of the Taper Avenue-based Catholic school now.
Thanks to providing the school their first eternal Star-studded moment by capturing the first CIF-Southern Section sports championship in school history, these shining Stars are your 2020-2021 San Pedro Prep Sports Team Of The Year.
It all got started for eight-year coach Victor Tuberosi and a team of eleven girls on Tuesday, April 13, in what was a pretty tame atmosphere, with a 57-32 nonleague victory over visiting St. Joseph of Lakewood. No crowd cheering, no parent support, no cheer squad. Just the bouncing of the basketball and coaches barking out instructions until a referee's whistle stopped play for an infraction and the buzzer sounding at the end of each quarter.
Pretty unusual for a prep basketball environment, but that, nor did future opponents, stop this relatively young, but still pretty experienced group that played together for 2.5 months like they've played as a team for four years.
The chemistry and love for each other was inconceivable, and that was only matched by their burning desire on the defensive side of the ball, which led to several steals and furious fast break chances. Plus, their half-court offense got two huge upgrades in the form of a pair of fabulous freshmen, forward Madison Watts and guard Andrea Lopez, who both ended up as the two top scorers all season for Mary Star.
Who could have possibly imagined that this team, would win all 15 regular season games, and emphatically repeat as Santa Fe League champions by claiming it outright after sharing it with two other schools a year earlier, be quite capable of making a postseason run like this... especially in the ultra-tough CIF-Southern Section?
Ending the year as the fourth-ranked team in Division 4-AA, Mary Star (22-1 overall) was determined to make history with the girls basketball team just days after the girls soccer team was one golden goal short of reaching a CIF-SS Division 7 final themselves.
The month of May drew to a close, and that's when these Stars truly got their shine on, first by shutting down Temple City in the opening round on May 27, turning an early 13-point second quarter deficit into a 48-36 victory, by holding the Rams to just three points in the fourth quarter after making a run late to carry a 34-33 lead into the final eight-minute frame. Mary Star then eliminated host La Quinta of Westminster, 62-53 in the second round on May 29.
And now... for the game which could have either ended it all, or become the start of something truly special.
June 2, 2021, where Mary Star took a two-hour trip to face host Calabasas, the first of many teams the Stars would encounter from this point on that had a decisive height advantage. The winner gets an automatic bid into one of the many CIF Southern California Regional divisional playoffs, and the loser would only have slim hopes for an at-large bid.
Noticing that the Coyotes would likely take the inside game away on offense, Tuberosi called for a relentless assault from the three-point line, and the Stars went on to bury 14 three-pointers at a 40% clip, and Lopez hit five of her game-high six triples in the second half, including three backbreaking long range bombs in the fourth quarter. The first half onslaught belonged to sophomore Bella Marconi, who hit three from downtown, two of which in the second quarter, then added a fourth at the start of the third.
Calabasas couldn't overcome the Stars' attack despite scoring 30 fourth-quarter points, and Mary Star won 78-64... yet the story doesn't end from here. In fact, it's not even close.
Mary Star got to host their third CIF-SS semifinal appearance in four years, looking to erase the sting of their previous two semifinal losses to eventual champions Grace Brethren in 2018, and Linfield Christian in 2019, both coming in Division 5-AA. In what was the only game the entire run where the Stars were the favorite, they played the part from wire to wire in defeating Immaculate Heart of Los Angeles, 57-40 to advance to their first CIF-SS final in girls basketball.
Only seven teams in the annals of Mary Star High sports have reached a CIF-SS final, only to come up short as the runner-up. Those teams were, the 1960 football team, the 1997, 1998 and 1999 girls volleyball teams, the 2002 baseball team, and finally, the 2013 and 2018 softball teams.
It didn't seem like June 10, 2021 would provide a different outcome when the girls basketball team, where Watts is their tallest player at 5'7'', would square off against an Agoura team who's smallest player is 5'7'' and tallest player is 6'2'', making the Stars decisive underdogs, even in their own house.
No one dared to tell Mary Star that... and it showed.
Trailing for all but 16 seconds of the first half, Mary Star put forth their finest effort yet to finally shatter the skeptics, silence the status-quo, and conquer the Chargers, 54-50 to finally... and eventually... hang up the first CIF-Southern Section sports championship banner inside the gymnasium that was rocking and rolling like no other sports event that was ever held on Taper Avenue.
Not a dry eye was to be found once the clock hit triple zeroes, especially on the Mary Star end. The Gold Rush student section even got a surprise visitor in Tuberosi himself, as he frantically ran into the section with uncontainable electricity pumping through his veins. The girls themselves, were stunned by that in their own celebration but still managed to lift up senior point guard Isabella Serrano, one of three seniors on the team.
The postgame ceremony of the girls getting their championship patches, Tuberosi accepting the championship plaque and everyone on the team plus principal Rita Dever all taking turns in a symbolic basketball net cutting, still was not the end of this Hoosiers-like story.
Mary Star nearly took home another trophy in attempt to achieve even more history, with back-to-back CIF Southern California Division 3-AA Regional home victories over two former CIF-Los Angeles City Section champions Crenshaw and Westchester, not only put the Stars into the title game on June 19, it marked a school record of 22 consecutive victories before it finally ended with a 72-44 loss at eventual Regional champion Rancho Bernardo of San Diego.
While Watts, the CIF-SS Division 4-AA Player Of The Year, Lopez and Serrano drew most of the attention, the efforts from the likes of Marconi, senior guards Cristina Camacho and Kaitlyn Oasay, sophomore guard Paula Serrano (Isabella's younger sister) and another freshman, Amy Duarte, were not to be overlooked.
In a four-month stretch of San Pedro Prep Sports teams that saw six league championship teams, a couple of signing day ceremonies, and even two CIF championships crowned (the other is CIF-LACS Open Division champion San Pedro High baseball on June 19), it was these incredible Stars that shined the brightest.
SAN PEDRO NEWS PILOT PAST PREP SPORTS TEAMS OF THE YEAR
2011-2012: San Pedro High School Football (12-1; CIF-LACS Division 1 semifinalists)
2012-2013: Port Of Los Angeles High School Softball (28-8; CIF-LACS Division 3 champions)
2013-2014: Port Of Los Angeles High School Baseball (14-9; CIF-LACS Division 3 champions)
2014-2015: Port Of Los Angeles High School Girls Soccer (22-4-2; CIF-LACS Division 4 finalists; CIF Division 5 Southern California Regional playoffs)
2015-2016: San Pedro High School Girls Soccer (20-2-3; CIF-LACS Division 1 semifinalists)
*2016-2017: San Pedro High School Softball (25-9-1; CIF-LACS Division 1 Champions)
*2016-2017: Port Of Los Angeles High School Girls Soccer (18-4; CIF-LACS Division 2 Champions; CIF Division 3 Southern California Regional playoffs)
2017-2018: San Pedro High School Boys Soccer (14-9-2; CIF-LACS Division 4 champions; CIF Division 4 Southern California Regional playoffs)
2018-2019: San Pedro High School Girls Volleyball (26-6; CIF-LACS Division 1 champions; CIF Division 4 Southern California Regional playoffs)
2019-2020: Port Of Los Angeles High School Girls Volleyball (15-8; CIF-LACS Division 4 champions; CIF Division 5 Southern California Regional playoffs)
* - Both Teams Share The Team Of The Year Honor