Above: Pasadena Poly’s Michelle Miller is the 2011-12 Star-News Girls Basketball Player of the Year (Walt Mancini / Staff Photographer)
STAR-NEWS ALL-AREA TEAM
Player of the year: Michelle Miller, Pasadena Poly, senior
Coach of the year: Hon Trieu, Keppel, Second season
Imari Brown, Duarte, Junior
Emoni Jackson, Muir, Sophomore
Alyson Lock, Keppel, Junior
Gina Henderson, Monrovia, Senior
Kandyce Smith, La Salle, Sophomore
Melody Chang, Arcadia, Junior
Samantha Lee, Keppel, Junior
Megan Rutherford, Pasadena, Senior
Melody Gauthier, Rosemead, junior
Shaela Flynn, Muir, Senior
By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
It could be easy to dismiss all of Michelle Miller’s eye-popping numbers.
The 5-foot, 10-inch senior has finished her high school career as the second-leading scorer in CIF-Southern Section girls basketball history, behind only Cheryl Miller, and fifth-best in the state. During this past season, the Pasadena Poly guard passed legends Diana Taurasi and Lisa Leslie on the scoring list.
She also had the CIF-SS’ fifth-highest point total for one season, finished with the third-best scoring average and finished ninth in career 3-pointers.
But many have questioned those numbers, considering Poly, with its high school enrollment of about 400 students, plays in the Prep League, certainly not one of the most competitive in the Southern Section.
The rap was, could Miller thrive against the best teams, against the best defenders, in Southern California?
“It was true,” admits Miller, who has been selected the Star-News Player of the Year for the third consecutive time. “But I think I was able to have the same point production against the better schools.”
Miller proved time and again that she could face that type of competition. In a nonleague game against St. Anthony this season, she scored 42 points. In her final game for Poly, in the second round of the CIF-SS playoffs, she had 36 points in a 68-65 loss to Bell-Jeff, and the Guards advanced to the Division 4AA semifinals.
“One of the best compliments I would get was whenwe would play teams like St.Anthony or Bell-Jeff,” she said.”Those teams and coaches were complimentary and I do think that made (my numbers) legitimate.
“Yes, to a certain degree I had to prove myself. But playing club against other top local club teams, those girls do respect what I have accomplished.”
In a way, things got even tougher for Miller this season. She led the Panthers to the CIF-SS Division 5A championship in her junior year, earning the division’s player of the year honors. She averaged a career-high 33.0 points that season.
But because of the success enjoyed by the Panthers, and fellow league rival Chadwick, Poly was bumped up three divisions to Division 4AA, arguably the second-toughest division in the CIF-SS this season.
Miller was not the division’s MVP. She was not even selected to the All-CIF-SS first team.
It certainly wasn’t because of her numbers. She averaged 32.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots per game. The Panthers have won their last 25 Prep League games and they finished the season 22-5.
Those numbers are more impressive considering Miller, a guard who played nearly every position this season, sat out the fourth quarter in nearly every game. By the time the third quarter rolled around, the Panthers consistently had a 30- or 40-point lead.
If Miller had played in those 22 fourth quarters in which she sat, it is likely she would have easily passed Cheryl Miller, who scored 3,446 in four years at Riverside Poly from 1978 to 1982. Michelle Miller finished with 3,331 points, only 115 behind.
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“As a competitor, it was hard to let the record slip away,” she said. “I think if I had played all four quarters, I could have gotten it.
“But it was a good decision. What has stood out at Poly is how others have appreciated our sportsmanship. It was more important doing it the right way. Why humiliate another team? It was the right decision to do.”
She will play at Princeton next season, her decision riding on the Ivy League’s academic excellence. Her other option would have been USC, the same school that Cheryl Miller played for.
“It is really incredible,” she said of her final point totals. “Just to be mentioned with those other names is humbling and amazing.”
Miller also played for a CIF-SS title in volleyball this season, and currently has a CIF-SS consideration time in swimming in the 50-yard freestyle. She said the biggest difference between this season and her earlier seasons has been taking on the role of captain.
“I was able to grow from a leadership standpoint,” she said. “The girls looked to me more as a vocal leader. I loved playing for coach (Kim) Weber and my teammates.”
In her career, Miller averaged a CIF-SS all-time third-best 30.2 points per game, made a CIF-SS all-time ninth-best 243 3-pointers, shot 50.0 percent from the field, averaged 11.7 rebounds per game and shot 84.2 percent from the free-throw line.
She had a career-high 52 points this past season in an 80-27 win over Flintridge Prep, again playing only three quarters.
Having almost as great a season was Keppel’s Alyson Lock. The 5-7 junior guard helped the Aztecs to a second consecutive undefeated Almont League title. The Aztecs reached the semifinals of the CIF-SS playoffs and reached the second round of the CIF State playoffs for the first time.
“We came in with low expectations because we were such a young team,” she said. “It ended up being the best season yet.”
She led the team with 16.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game and also averaged 5.8 assists and 3.8 steals per game
Duarte junior Imari Brown has had the knack of driving to the basket, but this season the forward improved her passing skills. She did not miss driving to the hoop, averaging 20.9 points per game, but when secondary defenders picked her up, she was able to find teammates, helping the Falcons to a 22-2 record and the second round of the CIF-SS playoffs.
Brown averaged a team-high 7.1 assists per game, 11.4 rebounds per game and 8.0 assists per game. The Falcons have won 32 consecutive Montview League games.
Muir went undefeated in the Pacific League and reached the CIF-SS quarterfinals with a big helping hand from sophomore Emoni Jackson. The 6-1 forward averaged team highs of 17.5 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.
Like Brown, Monrovia’s Gina Henderson went into the season with the reputation as a shooter. That was altered as the senior took over the floor, facilitating teammates and leading fast breaks to help the Wildcats to back-to-back Rio Hondo League titles.
The 5-8 guard averaged team highs of 19.3 points, 4.0 assists and 3.4 steals per game.