Unfortunately, the biggest story this season in Academic Athletic Association girls’ basketball was the announcement that Mission, O’Connell and Balboa would not be fielding teams, shortening the number of squads competing from 11 to eight.
Despite the smaller field (every team will face each other twice with no divisional play), there will still be plenty of talent in the AAA, led by Lowell, which has burst out of the gates 14-1.
The Cardinals will get considerable competition from an undersized but talented Lincoln and perennial power Washington, which despite a 2-13 start, still has to be considered a threat.
Here is a preview of the teams (in alphabetical order):
BURTON (2-5): The Pumas have won just one game on the court, a 73-45 triumph over Leadership. (Their other victory was a forfeit against Half Moon Bay.) Burton traditionally fields some of the more talented teams in the AAA, but eligibility issues have plagued the Pumas in years past, something they will have to avoid this season if they hope to remain competitive.
GALILEO (7-7): Starting forwards Staneisha Henson and Monica Compton are physical, talented and capable of putting up big numbers scoring and rebounding. The Lions, who played Lowell tough before losing 55-46 in the Leo LaRocca Sand Dune Classic, also get steady play from point guard Danielle Fong and versatile forward Melissa Wong.
INTERNATIONAL STUDIES ACADEMY (7-6): The Cobras began hot, winning seven of their first 10 games, but they enter AAA play on a three-game skid. How they respond to their losing streak will be important if they want to improve upon their 1-9 league record of last season.
LINCOLN (9-6): The Mustangs don’t have much size, but they have a horde of speedy, talented guards patrolling the perimeter. Freshmen guards Vivian Ho and Hallie Meneses have played beyond their years and fellow backcourt mates Jessica Jang and Kelly Huey are comfortable running the point or spotting up to shoot.
LOWELL (14-1): Power forward Angelina Clay may be undersized, but her toughness in the frontcourt has been the driving force behind Lowell’s impressive start. The Cardinals also get huge contributions from guards Kimberly Lau and Kimberly Wong, as well as 6-foot-1 center Jessi Miao.
MARSHALL (0-4): Not much is known about Marshall, which played just four nonconference games, losing them all. The Phoenix do have a strong inside presence in center Evelyn Bellinger, as well as a veteran point guard in Christina Hom.
WALLENBERG (1-8): Although the Bulldogs have won just one game, they have been competitive, losing five of those contests by less than nine points. The play of power forward Nneka Emeka, a 5-9 senior, will be key.
WASHINGTON (2-13): The perennially contending Eagles lost plenty of firepower off a team that won 24 games. A brutal nonconference schedule has the Eagles looking vulnerable, but they still have the talent to compete in the AAA. Shooting guard Stephanie Truong, one of the few veterans for coach Vince Wong, will look to lead the Eagles back to the top.