Boys basketball and football have both won state championships over the last two years, and Chaminade High School has gotten a reputation as a powerhouse in both sports. However, what Coach Kelly DiMuro has done with the girls basketball program is nothing short of spectacular, yet has gone somewhat under-the-radar. ‘Coach K’ has won eight Mission League titles, including the last five in a row. She also has a CIF and State championship ring, which was won last year.
With starters Paige Fecske and Valerie Higgins returning from last year’s team, combined with ESPN’s seventh overall player in the 2016 class, Leaonna Odom, transfering in from Mater Dei, Coach K’s team came into the season with higher expectations than ever. And they have delivered.
Chaminade currently stands at 24-3, and its only losses came from St. Ignatius, Alemany, and Long Beach Poly—who they recently beat in the open division semi-finals—all of which are in the top 25 national rankings.
A large part of their success this season has been Fecske, who is a senior point guard and is playing her third year on varsity.
“Paige has tremendous charisma and always holds her teammates accountable for their actions on the court,” Coach K said. “She has been a vocal leader and always leads by example.”
Coach K and her point guard have a special connection on the court, as Coach K described, “Paige and I communicate so well. She will look at me and make eye contact almost every time before we set up a play and I trust that her high basketball IQ will help the team. I also listen to Paige’s advice about the defenses we run”. There is nothing more important than the relationship between a coach and her point guard.
Fecske isn’t the only one making a huge impact on this year’s mission league champs. Higgins and Odom have both been filling up the stat sheet all season. Take a look at these stat lines:
Coach K spoke nothing but highly about her superstar duo of juniors, “They are an unbelievable tandem, where Valerie [Higgins] is the dynamic defender and Leaonna [Odom] brings scoring advantage. They have worked well together and have used their height and quickness to give us victories”.
Odom will be playing against her former team, for the second time this season. The two top teams in the nation met earlier in the season in the Palisades Beach Invitational championship when Chaminade won a close one 60-59, led by Higgin’s 20 points, 14 rebounds, and seven steals. Mater Dei is yet to lose another game this season, and you can bet they will be coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder. Coach K is confident that her team will match their intensity. She also said “We will bring a sense of urgency and with that brings undeniable pressure from two of the top players in the nation [Higgins and Odom]. We will be ready”.
This will be Chaminade’s toughest challenge yet, as the Mater Dei Monarchs have looked dominant as of late, including a 59-37 route over the number seven team in the country Alemany Warriors in the semi-finals. The key to beating the Monarchs starts with UCONN commit Kaite Lou Samuel, who is the number one rated player in the 2015 class. Shutting her down is impossible, but containing her will be the goal. ”We have their plays and our advantage is that Leaonna [Odom] can guard her. She knows her game and we can help her on screens” is what Coach K said about her plan to guard Samuel.
With her second straight CIF title appearance, Coach K is loving every bit of her success. “I love the attention that girls basketball is getting. Winning is always fun, but this team has so much talent, that the pressure to win is more prevalent than the last CIF title”.
At number two in the country, you can’t get much better than that, and win or lose, there is no doubt that Coach K has built a national powerhouse in girls basketball.