Girls player of the year and first team story
By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
There really isn’t anything Taylor Anderson can’t do on the basketball court. Bring the ball up, no problem. Guard the other team’s best scorer, no problem. Play inside or out, on both ends of the court, no problem. The stat sheet never lied when it came to Anderson. If she wasn’t leading Bonita High School’s girls basketball team in scoring, she was leading it in rebounds. If she didn’t have many assists, then she had a few steals. It all added up to a banner senior season that saw Anderson help Bonita finish 30-4, win the Hacienda League, reach the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A championship game, and advance three rounds in the state playoffs.
For those reasons, Anderson is the Tribune’s girls basketball player of the year.
“I’m honored, really,” Anderson said. “I didn’t think about it all season, then my coach told me and I was like ‘Wow, this is big.’ I’m just honored.” (To continue reading and to read coach of the year story, click thread).
GIRLS BASKETBALL TRIBUNE ALL-AREA TEAM
COACH OF THE YEAR: Darren Baumunk, Bonita
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Taylor Anderson, Bonita, Sr.
Forward: Chelsea Barnes, Diamond Ranch, Jr.
Forward: Imari Brown, Duarte, So.
Guard: Madison Zylstra, Bonita, Sr.
Guard: Nikki Wheatley, Bonita, Fr.
Guard: Andrea Villanueva, Bishop Amat, Sr.
Forward: Erika Williams, Diamond Ranch, Jr.
Forward: Vianai Austin, Bishop Amat, Sr.
Forward: Leticia Galarza, Bishop Amat, Sr.
Guard: Evelyn Herrera, Workman, Jr.
Guard: Savannah Selby, St. Lucy’s, Jr.
Anderson’s ability to play a multitude of roles led to a very interesting final stat line. She finished third on the team points with 12.8 per game, but reached double figures in 24 of Bonita’s 34 games.
Anderson led the Bearcats in rebounding with 8.9 per game and assists at 3.2 per game. She blocked 74 shots and came up with 52 steals. All that while playing alongside Bonita’s all-time leading scorer in Madison Zylstra and dynamic freshman point guard Nikki Wheatley, both of whom were also All-Area selections.
“For her to be successful at the next level, she was going to have to be able to do something above and beyond the normal player,” Bonita coach Darren Baumunk said. “That was my attitude with her and the only mistake I can say I made was say how good she did on a particular night and how much I appreciated how hard she worked in practice and the games.”
“I demanded so much of her and she accepted it, and I hope she felt appreciated.”
With Anderson doing something in all facets, Bonita became the area’s top team, surpassing powerhouses like Bishop Amat and Diamond Ranch. And they did it by beating both of those teams on the court.
After sweeping Diamond Ranch and winning league for the first time in her four years, Anderson next turned her attention toward avenging a loss earlier in the season to Bishop Amat when the teams had a rematch in the semifinals of the Division 3A playoffs in what turned out to be the biggest game of the year in the area.
Bonita turned the tables on Amat and punched its ticked to the championship game with a 65-53 win. Anderson had 15 points in that game and was the difference maker on defense.
“Definitely Bishop Amat was my favorite win,” Anderson said. “Going into it, we knew we lost the first time we played them, so we were out to prove something. And the season before we had lost in the semifinals and we wanted to go a round further this year. I’ve never been so excited after a game.”
Although the Bearcats fell short in the championship game, Anderson can only view her dream senior season playing alongside long-time teammates Zylstra and Jaclyn Smith as one of the best times she’s had in her life.
“It went exactly the way we hoped except for the losing in the finals part,” Anderson said. “But we worked hard and did all we could do. I am happy about our team. Beating Diamond Ranch was probably our first goal. We won league for the first time in my four years. I’m super proud of our team.”
Anderson’s versatility wasn’t lost on college coaches and she will play at Loyola Marymount next season. Earning a scholarship was the furthest thing from her mind when she began her career at Bonita as a lanky freshman. But thanks to an arsenal of abilities that allowed her to do several things and do them well, playing college ball will soon be a reality.
“I’m excited just to know that I’m not going to stop playing,” Anderson said. “I never really thought about it until me and my dad sat down and talked about it last year. Even then I didn’t think I could earn a full scholarship, but it just kind of happened.
“This has been the funnest four years of my life. I hope people remember me as just kind of the girl who helped her team win, someone who could help in a lot of different areas.”
Joining Anderson on the All-Area first team is Bonita teammates Madison Zylstra and Nikki Wheatley. Zylstra hit 217 3-pointers and earlier in the season knocked off her cousin Carly Horine as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Wheatley had one of the best freshman seasons in area history, averaging 13.8 points per game and 5.8 rebounds.
Diamond Ranch’s Chelsea Barnes averaged 20 points and 10.5 rebounds per game this season in leading the Panthers to an 18-11 record. Bishop Amat’s Andrea Villanueva was a lock-down defender, who averaged 8.6 points per game, 4.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals. She was named MVP of the Del Rey League and a first-team All-CIF selection.
Duarte super-soph Imari Brown lead her team to the best season in school history. Brown averaged 17.3 points per game, 13.9 rebounds and 9.8 assists in helping Duarte go 25-3.
COACH OF THE YEAR, BONITA’S DARREN BAUMUNK
By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
When Darren Baumunk took over as Bonita High School’s girls basketball coach in 2006, the Bearcats’ program was good, not great.
Staying that way was not an option for Baumunk, who graduated from Bonita in 1993 and had visions of even greater days ahead for his alma mater when it came to girls hoops.
But reaching the mountain top in this area meant being able to topple Bishop Amat and Diamond Ranch, and make a deep run in the postseason.
This season, Baumunk’s program got a chance to do all three and did not disappoint.
After finishing 30-4, sweeping Diamond Ranch and the Hacienda League, beating Bishop Amat in the semifinals of the playoffs and reaching the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A championship game, Baumunk is the Tribune’s Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
“It’s a great feeling to be a part of all the coaches who have won it in the past, guys like Richard Wiard at Bishop Amat and Mike James at Diamond Ranch and Vince Spirlin when he was at Diamond Ranch. You name it, it’s an honor,” Baumunk said.
“I give everything to the players. We’re as good as what the players are. Yeah, we can do a great job of coaching, but at the same time, you have to have the players who can respond to your style of coaching. We had 14 girls who just bought into the program.”
It’s no surprise Baumunk credits his players for earning him this award, the Bearcats were blessed with a sparking combo of veteran experience and youthful excitement and Baumunk had the luxury of blending it all together.
It was apparent in the offseason that Bonita was headed for something special thanks to the return of seniors Jaclyn Smith, Madison Zylstra and Taylor Anderson. Brianna Kennedy, a 6-foot-3 junior center, and dazzling freshman point guard Nikki Wheatley rounded out a starting five that was capable of playing at any pace.
The Bearcats tore through their nonleague schedule with a 12-1 record, but nothing was going to proven until important games ahead with Bishop Amat and Diamond Ranch.
Bonita got its first chance at Amat, and lost at the buzzer. But rather than letting his players sulk, Baumunk turned the loss into the motivating factor and wake-up call that his team would use to go on a run that Bearcats won’t soon forget.
“That was a rough a game,” Baumunk said of the Amat loss. “The only good part that came out of it was that we had to play Diamond Ranch that Monday. We knew going into the Amat game that we were as good as them. We knew we were capable of beating them, but we didn’t do it.
“I told the girls if we did what we needed to do the rest of the way, we would get another chance to play them.”
Bonita beat Diamond Ranch that Monday, and then did it again three weeks later to enter the postseason on a seven-game winning streak. After getting through the first three rounds, the Bearcats finally got another swipe at Amat in the semifinals.
It would be the biggest girls game of the season in the area, played on a Saturday night at Ayala. It would also be where the Bearcats served notice that they had arrived.
Bonita trailed Amat the entire first half and found itself fortunate to be only down by four at halftime. In the locker room, Baumunk felt his most important job was to keep the team calm.
“I told our girls that we hadn’t played that bad, but they (Amat) just played very well,” Baumunk said. “The way we came out in the second half, playing aggressive defense and pushing the ball up the floor, it was special.”
Bonita eventually won 65-53, knocking off the Valley’s most storied program before near-capacity crowd. The win punched the Bearcats’ ticket into the division championship game, which was a round further than Bonita had gone a year prior.
“Our best win of the season was Bishop Amat,” Baumunk said. “It was just a great victory to see, especially playing at Ayala with the crowd huge on both sides.
“When you think of girls basketball in the San Gabriel Valley, you think of Bishop Amat. It was like ‘hey, this is the next step for us.'”
The Bearcats didn’t play well in the championship the following week against Orange Lutheran, but had little time to dwell with the state playoffs on the horizon. Bonita won its first two state playoff games before falling to Serra.
Although disappointed, it didn’t take long for Baumunk to realize what his program at his alma mater had accomplished.
“When (former head coach) Brad Smith was coach here, he had them 1-2 in league all the time,” Baumunk said. “So we’ve always been there, but to go a little further, we’ve made a name for ourselves.
“I think it’s good enough where we can continue to go, even though we lose a few players. I still think Bonita is going to be one of the best programs around and I think we have good chance of keeping it going.”