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Back from the brink

Coach Bryan Camacho has boosted confidence, and the win total, at Bell-Jeff

February 14, 2007|By Jeff Tully

When he took over the program, Camacho could see the team had talent. The only problem was they the players never had the chance to showcase that talent.

"The expectation level just wasn't there," Camacho said. "It has been a tough process to get us to where we are now, but the kids have responded.

"And that has been the joy for me, when these girls realized they had it in them to be successful."

The No. 6-seeded Guards will get the chance to extend their season in their opening playoff game at 7:30 tonight against host Rancho Alamitos (11-12, 9-1), which won the Garden Grove League championship.

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Camacho found his way back to Bell-Jeff after a few years of discovering new challenges and trying different things in his life.

He left Bell-Jeff after the 2003-04 school year to take a men's assistant basketball position at University of Great Falls, a National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics college in Montana.

Feeling the job in Montana wasn't the right fit for him — and missing his friends and family back home — Camacho left his position after one year and returned to the area.

With a background in criminal justice, Camacho then decided to pursue a career as a law enforcement officer. However, after analyzing his situation, he decided his new career really didn't suit him, so he made the decision to get back into coaching.

Camacho returned to a Bell-Jeff program he built from the ground up into a CIF Southern Section Division IVA powerhouse. Before he took over the team in 2000-01, the Guards went 28-45 the previous three seasons.

During his four-year tenure, the Guards went 79-29 (a .731 winning percentage) and made the playoffs all four years. Four seasons ago under Camacho, the Guards reached the Division IVA championship for the first time in six years, losing to Oaks Christian, 53-44, at the Long Beach Pyramid.

Four seasons ago, Bell-Jeff had another fine playoff run, advancing to the semifinals. However, the Guards fell to Downey Calvary Chapel, 43-31.

After he left Bell-Jeff, the Guards went 9-30 (3-19 in the Sunshine League) and failed to qualify for the postseason.

"Bell-Jeff is like home for me, so it felt like I was back at a familiar place," Camacho said.

As happy as he is to be beck, the Guard players have welcomed Camacho back with open arms. Along with his motivational skills, many athletes say it is also Camacho's basketball expertise that has impressed them.

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