The competition for the SanFranPreps.com and San Francisco Examiner City Player of the Year in girls’ basketball was a two-horse race.
The first contender was St. Ignatius senior guard Maria Kemiji-McDonald, reigning City Athlete of the Year, the best player on the best team in The City all season and the West Catholic Athletic League Player of the Year.
The second was Mercy senior guard Mariah Masoli, the West Bay Athletic League MVP, who led all city players with 16.6 points per game and led the Skippers to one of their best seasons in school history.
The difference was the way Masoli played — always calm and collected — and her versatility, averaging three rebounds, four assists and four steals per game, over the pure athleticism of Kemiji-McDonald, who led the Wildcats in scoring (13.1 points per game) and was second in rebounding (7.6 per game).
That’s why Masoli is our Player of the Year.
Masoli was often the Skippers’ main ball-handler, showed an ability to score on drives and was almost automatic on open 3-pointers.
“Those shots are like layups for her,” Mercy coach Michael Gutierrez said often this season.
Gutierrez earned Coach of the Year honors, as much for building a successful program at Mercy as game planning and getting the most out of his players, like senior Courtney Sabahi, whose best sport is volleyball.
Sabahi earned a first-team All-City selection with a breakout season where she averaged a double-double (13 points and 11 rebounds per game) as a relatively undersized forward-center (listed at 5-foot-11).
Sabahi is just one example of a first team entirely made up of seniors.
University senior center Amelia King also averaged a double-double (16.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game), but was a game-changer on defense and finished second in the North Coast Section across all divisions in blocks (4.6 per game).
In the first-team backcourt, Washington’s Raelyn Cheung-Sutton and International’s Denia Ebersole both showed the ability to score and make plays. Cheung-Sutton buoyed the Eagles with 13 points, four steals and five assists per game, in what many thought would be a down season for Washington.
Unlike the first team, the second-team and honorable-mention selections show a bright future for The City’s girls’ basketball teams.
St. Ignatius frontcourt players Josie Little (second team) and Sydney Raggio (honorable mention) headline a highly touted freshman class that will likely enable the Wildcats to be The City’s top team for at least three more seasons.
Lowell juniors Katarina Lum (second team and also Academic Athletic Association Player of the Year) and Lorna Tuufuli (honorable mention and last season’s AAA Player of the Year), will again have the Cardinals as the runaway favorites to win their fourth consecutive San Francisco Section title.
The small private schools are not short on young talent either, with standout freshmen Shayna Mehta (International, honorable mention) and Erin Hanley (Convent, honorable mention) playing crucial roles on teams that appear to be built for future success.
Player of the Year: Mariah Masoli, senior guard, Mercy
Coach of the Year: Michael Gutierrez, Mercy
Guard: Raelyn Cheung-Sutton, senior, Washington
Guard: Denia Ebersole, senior, International
Guard: Maria Kemiji-McDonald, senior, St. Ignatius
Forward: Courtney Sabahi, senior, Mercy
Center: Amelia King, senior, University
Guard: Kaitlyn Crawley, senior, St. Ignatius
Guard: Katarina Lum, junior guard, Lowell
Guard: GeAnna Summers-Luaulu, sophomore, Sacred Heart Cathedral
Forward: Charlotte Blanc, junior, Urban
Center: Josie Little, freshman, St. Ignatius
Phacharee Arunleung, senior, forward, Washington
Malaysia Basallo, junior, guard, Balboa
Isabella Borges, junior, guard, Convent
Melanie Choy, senior, guard, Gateway
Jessica DiGiulio, junior, guard, Leadership
Jerrieza Enriquez, junior, guard, Sacred Heart Cathedral
Ashley Gainer, junior, forward, Sacred Heart Cathedral
Aria Gallardo, sophomore, guard, Waldorf
Jessica Garrett, senior, center, Lincoln
Courtney Gong, senior, guard, St. Ignatius
Christina Haight, junior, guard, Mercy
Erin Hanley, freshman, forward, Convent
Jaime Hum-Nishikado, sophomore, guard, Convent
Nia Ilalio, sophomore, forward, Mercy
Natalie Kelly, sophomore, guard, International
Sarah Lim, sophomore, guard, Galileo
Katie Lo, freshman, guard, University
Shayna Mehta, freshman, guard, International
Tianna Mitchell, senior, forward, Mission
Sophie Navarro, senior, guard, Jewish Community
Sophie Owens, senior, guard, Bay
Sydney Raggio, freshman, forward, St. Ignatius
Neff Rodgers, junior, forward, Drew
Briannah Smith, junior, guard, Sacred Heart Cathedral
Lorna Tuufuli, junior, forward, Lowell
Stacey Ward, senior, guard, St. Ignatius
Katie Waters, senior, forward, Lick-Wilmerding
Michelle Wong, junior, forward, Lincoln