East County Sports

Sultans win first league title since ’04


EastCountySports.com staff report

SANTEE – The Santana Sultans rebounded from a 0-8 start to the 2018-19 prep girls basketball season and ended up with their first league championship since 2004.

The Sultans earned a share of the Grossmont Valley League championship following a 44-7 victory over visiting Granite Hills on Friday night.

For the Sultans, it was a finishing touch on a possibly surprising resgular season campaign for new head coach JORDAN FRANEY, who couldn’t resist returning home to coach on N. Magnolia despite a rising coaching career a couple of hundred miles to the north.

The Sultans were given no favors, however, in the opening round of the San Diego CIF Division III playoffs, where they will travel to face Hilltop in a 10-7 matchup on Tuesday at 7.

Still, the Sultans’ momentum can’t be ignored by the Lancers.

Santana, which shared the Grossmont Valley League championship with Monte Vista, won nine of its last 11 games.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Franey said following the season finale against the Eagles. “I have no doubt in my mind that I have the greatest group of kids a coach could ask for. 

“Starting the season 0-8 we could have easily folded.”

Franey was set to take over a strong program in the Southern Section this season.

Instead, she faced the task of rebuilding a team that won just three games last season just one year after making a CIF division championship game.

“Taking over the program in October, I knew I had to get right down to business and with early tough losses we all had to check our egos and get to work,” Franey said. “My team is the epitome of resiliency and when the going got tough, we got going.

“I have a young team but we never made excuses. They trusted me, they trusted the process, and to be league champs for the first time in 15 years is a true testament to what Santana basketball is all about.”

One of the keys to the Sultans’ emergence has been the rise of junior LAKAINA AQUINGNOC-DAVID. She scored 20 points in the season finale against the Eagles.

Senior AALIYAH STONE had six points, 14 rebounds and six assists for the Sultans.

Junior BRIANNA JERIG had seven points, seven steals and five rebounds for Santana (13-14, 8-2 Grossmont Valley League).

By the way, that 2003-04 team included Franey and had a pretty legendary coach, to boot. The Sultans shared the league title with El Capitan at 7-1.

“Not only are my kids great players, they are great people and role models and I tried to pass on the values and habits taught to me by Wade Vickery,” Franey said of her legendary Santana mentor. “My kids do things the right things on and off the court and to back that up with a league title, I’m overwhelmed with admiration for this group.”

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