Basketball Long Beach Poly

Girls’ Basketball Preview: Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits

The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.

In the long and storied history of the Long Beach Poly girls’ basketball team under head coach Carl Buggs, there has never been a season quite like this one. The Jackrabbits are still on a 14-year Moore League undefeated streak, one of the longest in the state, and are fresh off of a 23-6 overall season that saw them make the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals. But Poly graduated nearly all of its point production from last season, and has by far the youngest team in Buggs’ tenure–with just one senior and seven of the varsity team’s 16 players in the freshman or sophomore class.

“First of all, our future looks bright,” said Buggs. “Right now it’s the transition from middle school to high school, and a young varsity role player that’s stepping up into a new role and handling that responsibility. There’s still questions.”

With young talent and some key transfers sitting for the first month of the season due to the CIF-SS Sit Out Period rule, Poly will look to role players from last year’s team to step up. First-team All-League sophomore Helena Vu will need to produce, as will second-team All-League juniors Andrea Perkins (pictured) and Jaleina Taliauli. That trio were the fourth, fifth, and sixth leading scorers on last year’s team, none of them averaging over five points per game.

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“It’s taking on that responsibility that ‘now it’s my time,’” said Buggs. “That’s what we need from the returners, that’s a big question right now.”

With so many young players, it’s very much on the returners to not just lead in terms of point production, but also in terms of attitude. With Poly relying heavily on Nala Williams last year, Moore League teams took note, and smelled blood in the water. The Jackrabbits’ league win streak barely survived an overtime game against Millikan last year, that was the first half of a doubleheader with Wilson on a Saturday due to COVID-19 rescheduling. That game was an eye-opener for Perkins.

Helena Vu, one of three key returners for Poly

“When people see ‘Poly’ on our shirts they come out and they really want to win,” said Perkins. “We need to be ready for that and mentally prepared to face anything. We’ve been Moore League champs for a long time, and we need to continue the legacy.”

Perkins said she and the other returners are taking their responsibility to the program personally.

“I was always looking up to the seniors last year, and now I’m in that role, younger players are looking up to me,” she said. “So I need to show up this year and show them.”

The Jackrabbits have three freshmen they expect to make a big impact, as well as three underclassmen transfers.

The freshmen are Jordyn Washington, Sophia Montanez, and Lesina Afu. Washington is a quick guard who could have competed for the starting point guard spot but suffered a season-ending knee injury. Montanez and Afu are likely to get plenty of playing time this year but will need to adjust and likely go through some growing pains.

“They’re going through that transition of playing against 8th grader to playing against 12th graders,” said Buggs. “You can’t do the same things now. But they’re highly energetic, very coachable, hard workers who want to learn and absorb everything. They’ll be good.”

Poly's injury luck has been tough this year as they'll be without Amani Thomas as well, a four-year Jackrabbit whose senior season was cut short with a knee injury.

The transfers are junior Brooklyn Taylor from Serra, sophomore Jazmyne Shamburger, and junior Sydney Corder-Boyd. Taylor is an athletic shooter who will likely play around the basket some for Poly with her 6-1 frame, while Shamburger is an athletic slasher who can score at will. Corder Boyd is a stretch four who can be a great rebounder as well as shooter for the Jackrabbits.

Buggs’ program has been reliant on its seniors for the last few years to keep its history alive during the COVID-19 disruptions. Now for a first time, there’s a good look at the future--Poly will return its top several scorers next season and many of them the season after that. The question is how does that transition happen this year.

“We haven’t beaten an Open or Division 1 team most of the offseason,” said Buggs. “But we’ll be an entirely different team post-Christmas. We’re working, and we’ll get there.”

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.