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Two are tops in league

Girls' basketball: Bell-Jeff's Napier and Benedicto of Providence get player-of-the-year honors.

March 23, 2012|BY JEFF TULLY

There was little doubt that the Bellarmine-Jefferson High and Providence girls' basketball teams were the class of their respective leagues.

While the Guards went undefeated to earn their fifth straight Santa Cruz League championship, the Pioneers also didn't drop a game in the Liberty League, notching a second-straight title.

The squads had something else in common: they both featured a key player who could step up and make the big play when their team needed them. For Bell-Jeff it was senior Rishonda Napier and for Providence it was junior Bea Benedicto.

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Fittingly, the pair both garnered their respective league's top honor. Napier was named the Santa Cruz Player of the Year and Benedicto shared co-Liberty League Player of the Year honors with Leah Purvis of Buckley.

Napier enjoyed a wildly successful season and leaves Bell-Jeff as one of the most decorated basketball players in program history. Earlier this week, she earned her third All-CIF Southern Section first-team honor. During the season, she was nominated as a McDonald's All-American.

Napier averaged 21.7 points a game to go along with nearly three assists and three steals a game.

"Just her presence in a lot of games was the reason why we were able to have as successful season as we had," Bell-Jeff Coach Jaclyn Johnson said. "No one had anyone who could guard her in league."

Earning first-team all-league accolades for the Guards were seniors Jasmine Smith (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Averie Guzman (six points, five rebounds). The pair, along with Napier, are the last holdovers from a Bell-Jeff team that won Southern Section and state championships in 2009.

Making the second team for Bell-Jeff was senior Kiah Jones and junior Tiffany Kho.

The No. 6 Guards (24-6) advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA semifinals where they fell to No. 7 Gardena Serra, 71-54. The team also won a game in the Division IV state playoffs against Los Angeles Baptist, 70-60, before falling St. Bernard, 65-51.

Benedicto led a team that made history by advancing to the semifinals in the postseason, earning a state playoff bid for the first time and notching two victories in state competition.

Benedicto, who earned second-team All-CIF honors, averaged 11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.

"She is the person teams really, really prepared for," Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. "She just worked so hard under the boards and she was a very tough player to contain."

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