La Cañada Aims to Reclaim League Title

First published in the Dec. 2 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

Basketball is back and the La Cañada High School varsity girls’ team has opened the season with a 3-1 record after recently competing in the10th annual Mark Keppel Gary Houston Invitational between Nov. 20-27, finishing third of eight teams in the blue division.
After coaching the junior varsity team his previous three seasons, first-year varsity head coach Jonathan Saavedra is taking over for Owen Keenan, who accepted a coaching position in Rhode Island. Saavedra’s goals are to qualify for the playoffs, recapture the Rio Hondo League title and win the first CIF-SS girls’ basketball championship in school history.
The Spartans made their lone CIF finals appearance in 2016, when they lost, 59-46, to Lancaster Antelope Valley High.
“I feel like I have a really good relationship with my players and my staff as well. I’ve coached a lot of these players in the past at the JV level,” Saavedra said. “The La Cañada girls’ basketball program has a solid history of being a good team, so one of the goals is definitely to make the playoffs.”
During La Cañada’s five consecutive league titles streak between 2015-20, the Spartans were an immaculate 46-0 in league play before finishing as runners-up with a 6-2 record last year; La Cañada’s two league losses were both against eventual state finalist South Pasadena.
“We definitely have a competitive league but we want to try to retake that title because we had won it for [five] years in a row prior to South Pasadena taking it from us,” Saavedra said.
This year LCHS will seek to topple the reigning league champion Tigers, with the first of two matchups scheduled for Jan. 7.
The Spartans recently defeated Montclair, 38-30, which had followed a loss to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 34-31. LCHS had won its first two games against L.A. Bravo High, 46-18, and L.A. Franklin High, 50-47.
Four games into the season, junior Mia Oakley-Stilson, with a total of 41 points, has led the offense, including a game-high 16 points against Bravo and 13 points against Montclair. She also registered 25 rebounds so far this season and is the team leader in steals (15) and assists (five).
“Mia is one of our standout players and she’s been on the varsity team since her freshman year. She actually ended up, due to some injuries, becoming a starter her freshman year,” Saavedra said. “She brings a lot of experience to the table. One of the biggest strengths for Mia is she has a really high basketball IQ.”
Meanwhile, senior Kylie Sears has played solid defense, logging team-highs in rebounds (38) and blocks (10) in addition to her 23 points this season. She scored a game-high eight points against Notre Dame.
“Kylie is our primary post presence. At about 6’2,” she’s our mainstay inside protecting the rim,” Saavedra said. “We don’t have a ton of height after Kylie, so we really rely on her to patrol the middle for us.”
Freshman Jennifer Musso has scored 31 points, including a season-high 11-point performance against Montclair. She’s also registered 15 rebounds and 12 steals.
Senior Rachel Kim has season totals of 26 points, 16 rebounds, five steals and four assists, while senior Lily Khayat also has 26 points with 14 rebounds and six steals. They each had co-game-high 12-point performances against Franklin.
“Rachel Kim and Lily Khayat are both guards; both of them run a little bit more of the offense for us but they both contribute in their own ways for us,” Saavedra said. “Rachel is definitely one of our quicker players and one of our more tenacious defenders, and Lily is one of our go-to shooters. She’s got the nicest looking shot of all of our players, just one of those pure-looking jump shots.”
Sophomore Andrianna Pitsos has recorded eight points and five rebounds, senior Maddie Chividjian scored five points, senior Sunny Wakeman tallied four points, eight rebounds and four steals, and senior Hailey Tamara added three points and eight rebounds.
Senior Caroline Zaren registered two rebounds, sophomore Talia Miyamoto had two steals and one rebound, and senior Lia Jones tallied one rebound.
The Spartans will host a nonleague opponent, Hart High of Newhall, on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 1:30 p.m.