By Jeremy Balan
The competition for the SanFranPreps.com 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 head 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 from 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 some thought would be a down season for Washington.
Unlike the first team, the second-team and honorable-mention selections show a bright future for he 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.
Bonta Hill contributed to this report
2012 SanFranPreps.com All-City Team
Player of the Year
Mariah Masoli, senior guard, Mercy
Coach of the Year
Michael Gutierrez, Mercy
Raelyn Cheung-Sutton, senior guard, Washington
Denia Ebersole, senior guard, International
Maria Kemiji-McDonald, senior guard, St. Ignatius
Amelia King, senior center, University
Courtney Sabahi, senior forward, Mercy
Charlotte Blanc, junior forward, Urban
Kaitlyn Crawley, senior guard, St. Ignatius
Josie Little, freshman center, St. Ignatius
Katarina Lum, junior guard, Lowell
GeAnna Summers-Luaulu, sophomore guard, Sacred Heart Cathedral
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