LJCDS Women’s Basketball: Are the stakes for a CIF championship higher this year?


Naomi Panganiban, Staff Writer

The LJCDS Varsity Women’s basketball team is looking to bounce back this year after a shortened, yet successful, 2020-2021 season due to COVID. The anticipation is high as observers, fans, and players are anxious to see if they can redeem themselves. Unfortunately, the Torreys fell short against Bonita Vista High School in the CIF semifinals of last year. After a devastating end to their 2020-2021 season, the Torreys are determined to win back the SD Section CIF Championship and a long awaited State title.

 “Compared to 2 years ago when Tehina was on the team, I’d say the stakes are not as high. I say we are just as good. We still have a lot of talent, but for some reason it feels like there is a lot less pressure this year,” says senior captain Destiny Villareal.

Another member of the 2019-2020 roster was Sumayah Sugapong, a junior guard. “I think the stakes are higher this year to win a CIF Championship since we fell short last year,” states Sugapong in contrast to Villareal. “For me, I feel like there is a lot of pressure having to live up to what we did my freshman season, being #1 in the nation and winning a state championship.” 

 The team had a historic 2019-2020 season, finishing with a record of 31-1 and becoming the first sports team in LJCDS history to win an Open Division Championship. Not to mention the tremendous leadership by the ‘20 class, including captains Paris Atchley, Bobi Mack, Tehina Paopao, and Pua Tufaga. All four seniors now play basketball at the collegiate level. Paopao was named a McDonald’s All American and is currently a starter for the University of Oregon as a sophomore. To be branded as a McDonald’s All American means that the person  is one of the top high-school players in the US or Canada.

That spectacular season wouldn’t have been possible without head coach Terri Bamford and her coaching staff. Now in her 25th year coaching at LJCDS, Coach Bamford is determined to win another title. “This year we are all a year older. I think our decision-making and how we play as a unit has gotten a lot better…we are sharing the ball more than we did last year, everyone has gotten better defensively,” says Bamford. “With the addition of Jada Williams…she is such a great leader, that her leadership has pushed us over the top to the next level.” Newcomer Jada Williams is a junior guard who averaged 19.1 points and 3.6 assists last year at Blue Springs High School. She is committed to play college basketball for UCLA. 

The Torreys’ current record is 21-2 after the recent win against Bishops for the Coastal League Championship. They are ranked #2 in California and #6 in the US. The team consists of Tajianna Avant-Roberts ‘24, Breya Cunningham ‘23, Ann-mae DeGuzman ‘24, Taylor Dente ‘24, Naomi Panganiban ‘24, Gabby Schmidt ‘22, Gracie Schmidt ‘23, Erin Sicari ‘25, Sumayah Sugapong ‘23, Ale’a Tufaga ‘24, Destiny Villareal ‘22, Destiny Walker ‘25, and Jada Williams ‘23. They are led by head coach Terri Bamford and assistant coaches, Gino Sugapong and Mason Pennock.

“I was excited to come to this program, but obviously the expectations for the team are so high that sometimes it’s a little nerve-racking,” says freshman Erin Sicari. “The speed of the game definitely is a lot faster and the girls are so much better. It took a lot of adjusting, but I’m finally starting to get there a little bit.”

Just like any other sport, there is a strong desire to win and a competitiveness aspect that is hard not to love. It is possible for student athletes to feel overwhelmed with pressure and expectations and at times it can be hard to navigate.  

“I do feel that I need to live up to the expectations for this upcoming season from others and from myself. I trust my work and the preparation that I put in…if I do the work and I workout then when it comes to the game there is no pressure because I’ve done everything I have needed to do,” states sophomore Tajianna Avant-Roberts.

 You can follow the women’s basketball team and their journey on the LJCDS Torreys app found in the app store.

“Everything negative—pressure, challenges—is all an opportunity for me to rise.” – Kobe Bryant 

Cover photo credit: LJCDS