East County Sports

HILLS PREVIEW: Champ Matadors set for challenge

Mount Miguel guard SATERA BATES




By Bill Dickens



EL CAJON – There’s reason for concern in Spring Valley.

Mount Miguel coach ROBBY SANDOVAL has already expressed his frustration about his team’s inconsistent play in the preseason.

Now granted, the Matadors played a strong tournament schedule in preparation for the the road ahead, but his 7-7 squad must contend with a drastically improved supporting cast in the Grossmont Hills League.

That’s no knock on the set of challengers which include Granite Hills, Helix, West Hills, Santana and Steele Canyon, but a poorly-time loss or a sudden-uprising by one of the hot new contenders could put Mount Miguel’s streak of 16 championships in jeopardy.

The Matadors feature one of the top stars in the county in guard SATERA BATES and have a formidable duo up front in DESTINI ANDERSON and CAMARA DOUGLAS.

The same trio led Mount Miguel into the Open Division playoffs last season, which resulted in a first-round exit at Torrey Pines.

The other starters and reserves are strong compliments, as well, but a short bench seems to hurt them against elite schools.

Still, when you have all the experience, history, tradition and expectations, the Matadors opponents’ in the Hills League still have an uproad road to climb against the perennial champs.

Could Feb. 14 be the night that determines the championship?

The West Hills Wolf Pack will travel to the Matadors’ gym on that evening in the next-to-last game.

If you believe the experts, it’s the team from west Santee that poses the biggest challenge to the Mount Miguel throne.

An unheralded group in the preseason, the Wolf Pack emerged with a 9-5 record, including a 3-1 mark at the SoCal Holiday Prep Classic. Their preseason also including a trip to Las Vegas for the Tarkanian Classic.

West Hills is led by junior center KERRIE DANIELS, but setting the pace is star guard VIVIAN PANELA.

A strong supporting cast includes seniors CARLY RALEY and MAYA CLEMONS.

The two games with Mount Miguel stand as the must-see games during the league season… for now.

The Helix Highlanders have been the most heartfelt story in all of East County sports this season.

The sudden passing of PATRICK TABOR, the league champion coach whose supportive drive inspired his teams to will themselves to success, was a tough blow for everyone involved in Helix sports.

Thankfully, Tabor’s friend, coach FREDDIE GARRETT, has been a steady force to handle the reins of the veteran squad.

The Highlanders put their stamp on the league race map when they beat Grossmont to win the Crawford Tournament championship. The Scotties dominated the event.

The senior trio of CAMRYN OWENS, TALIA HOOKER and DANIELLE SIMMONS can certainly matchup with their top-tier league foes.

Granite Hills came within just a few points of taking down the Matadors last year.

The Eagles had to revamp the squad some after their top stars graduated, but juniors ANYANG AGOTH and KANI KUBARI have kept up their play as they’ve become the team leaders, along with senior CHASE ROBLES.

Granite is just 6-7 and carry a three-game losing streak into tonight’s tough opener at West Hills.

Santana has the tallest order, coming over from the Valley League, but always will have tradition and history on their side, not to mention the fact they have been the East’s best surprise with an 11-4 start.

The Sultans won the local tournament with a revenge win against a surging El Capitan squad, then competed in the tough Prep Classic. They capped their preseason with a take-notice win at Grossmont.

SIERRA SIMANEK is a strong force in the middle, which allows room for guard JANICE DEGUERO to make her darting moves and get the ball to the right shooter, and sometimes take it herself.

KOBI HOLLAND and ZOE SHIBLEY both have had starring roles in Santana’s preseason success.

The Steele Canyon Cougars have played a home-based schedule during the preseason, including three tournament games in one day, and compiled a 6-4 record. They also come over from the Hills League from last year, where they finished tied for second with Santana at 6-4.

5-foot-9 seniors MARIANNA MARTINEZ and MAKAYLA MCCARTHY reflect the Cougars’ consistent style, while 5-foot-4 junior ELIZABETH BOTT has started to demonstrate the confidence coach PETER RUIZ expected from the likely star.






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