Player of the Year: NIKKI WHEATLEY, Bonita
By Steve Ramirez
Bonita High School, after advancing to the CIF-Southern Section divisional finals and semifinals the previous two seasons, was supposed to be in rebuilding mode this season.
Nikki Wheatley wouldn’t allow it.
For her efforts in helping the Bearcats to a third consecutive semifinal appearance, Wheatley is San Gabriel Valley Tribune Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
It’s the junior’s third consecutive season on the All-Area team and her second Player of the Year award.
“It was definitely rewarding,” Wheatley said. “The same thing happened (last year) when we lost some key players and people didn’t believe we were going to do as good.
“The same thing happened this year. We lost Bri Kennedy (to graduation) and people thought we were going to struggle, but by us playing as a team we picked up the slack and still make into (the Southern Section and state playoffs).”
A big part of that was Wheatley, who stepped up her game to lead a young Bearcats team that was perfect in winning the Hacienda League before advancing to the 2AA semifinals and the Division 2 state playoffs.
Wheatley, who has been arguably the top player in the area since leading Bonita to the divisional finals in 2011, played her best down the stretch in helping the Bearcats to the 2AA final four.
She averaged more than 20 points a game through the regular season to earn Hacienda League MVP before scoring 29 and 24 points, respectively, in playoff wins over Mira Costa (52-47) and Cajon (60-47) in the second and quarterfinal rounds before a 22-point effort in a 60-47 loss to Lynwood in the semifinals.
“I definitely knew I would have to step up this season,” Wheatley said. “I knew I had to be a key player. But we also had a lot of other girls step up to help me. I knew I had to step up and play by best each and every game.”
Bonita ended its season with a 66-43 setback to La Costa Canyon, of Carlsbad, in the first round of the state playoffs.
“I thought we had a good season,” Wheatley said. “It was disappointing that we couldn’t go further. But I thought how far we went was really good for our team.
“With all the young players we had, we worked really hard and went further than I think people expected.”
Wheatley was big part in that. But a lot as been expected of the junior since she bursted on to the local scene her freshman season in 2011. She’s also stepped up her game each season.
“I think I’ve improved a lot in my shot,” Wheatley said. “My freshman year, because we had some good shooters, I didn’t have to shoot a lot.
“I also make better decisions on the court than I did then. I try to limit my turnovers and I feel I better in getting everyone else involved in the game.”
Now she’s ready for a final season in 2013-14, which could conclude with that elusive CIF-SS title, with an influx of transfers to help the key returners.
“Next year, I hope we can make it really for next year,” Wheatley said. “I feel with some key players coming in, I’m really excited and I think next year will be a good year.”
Coach of the Year: RICHARD WIARD, Bishop Amat
Wiard is arguably the top girls basketball coach in area history. He has guided the Lancers to five CIF-Southern Section titles and two state titles. The Lancers added to their lore this season, going 25-10 and advancing to the sectional finals for the seventh time, losing to Canyon Springs in the Division IA championship game. Amat was again the last area team standing, losing to Long Beach Poly in the CIF State Division I Southern California Regional semifinals. Wiard was Division IA Coach of the Year.
TRIBUNE FIRST TEAM
PAULINA SANTANA, Bishop Amat, Junior, Guard
Santana was key figure for the Lancers down the stretch. She had big games in playoff wins over Westminster and Ventura. The junior was named first team All-CIF-SS Division IA and first team All-Del Rey League.
DAGMAR RAMIREZ, Bishop Amat, Junior, Forward
Notable: Ramirez was one of the top players in the area before suffering a knee injury late in the regular season. She was second team All-Del Rey League.
MAURIANA CLAYTON, Bishop Amat, Senior, Forward
Notable: Clayton was another key player down the stretch that helped the Lancers overcome the injury to Ramirez to make a run at the program’s sixth divisional title. She had big games vs. Westminster and Ventura. Clayton was first team All-CIF-SS Division IA and second team All-Del Rey League.
JANAE CHAMOIS, Bishop Amat, Junior, Guard
Chamois stepped up in the postseason to provide Amat with a solid defensive front while contributing to the offense. She had solid outings vs. Westminster and Ventura.
CASIE LOWDEN, Glendora, Senior, Forward
Loweden was one of the top inside players in the area, She averaged 14. 8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game to help the Tartans to a 19-10 record. The senior was first team All-Baseline League.
KELLI CALTON, Wilson, Senior, Guard
Calton was the key factor for the Wildcats, who went 22-7 and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 3AA quarterfinals. She averaged 12.9 points a game. The senior was Valle Vista League MVP and first team All-CIF-SS Division 3AA/
IMARI BROWN, Duarte, Senior, Guard
Brown has been on of the top players in the area the past three years. She helped the Falcons to a 22-3 record and second-place finish in the Montview League, averaging 26.7 points and 7.9 assists per game. She also had 12 rebounds a contest to be one of the top all-around players in the area. She was Montview League MVP.
LESLIE RIVERA, Workman, Freshman, Guard
Rivera was one half of the Lobos’ dynamic duo that also included freshman Alize Williams. She helped Workman to one of its better seasons in recent memory, which included a 24-5 record and the Montview League title. She earned first team All-Montview League after averaging 9.3 points and 5.6 assists a game. She also had 3.9 steals per contest.
ALIZE WILLIAMS, Workman, Freshman, Forward
Williams was the inside option of the Lobos’ dynamic freshmen duo that also included Leslie Rivera. Williams put in 15 points and 7.9 rebounds to help Workman go 24-5 and win the Montview League title. She was first team All-Montview League.
YEWANDE ALABI, Diamond Bar, Senior, Center
Alabi was one of the area’s top post players. She was dominate inside, ranking among the Hacienda League leaders in scoring and rebounds. She was first team All-Hacienda League.
Taj Lark, Diamond Ranch, Sr.
Amanda Britt, West Covina, Sr.
Dy’mond Mitchell, San Dimas, So.
Kaelyn Kawamoto, Wilson, Jr.
Marisol Chavez, Baldwin Park, So
Jackie Richetson, Ayala, So.
Imani Payton, South Hills, Sr.
Dominique Theus, Covina, Jr.
Janessa Thropay, Chino Hills, Fr.
Leeah Powell, Bishop Amat, Sr.
SGVN TOP 10
1. Bishop Amat (25-10)
2. Bonita (25-7)
3. Workman (24-5)
4. Diamond Ranch (21-8)
5. Wilson (22-7)
6. Ayala (19-9)
7. Duarte (22-3)
8. Rosemead (20-7)
9. Glendora (19-10)
10. South Hills (16-12)