The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial.
The Long Beach Poly girls’ basketball team under coach Carl Buggs is one of the great dynasties in Long Beach high school sports history. The Jackrabbits have won CIF State, CIF Southern Section, and Moore League titles in abundance, turned out several All-Americans and dozens of scholarship college players. They ride a historic 17-year league title streak into this season, and haven’t lost a league game since 2008.
Since COVID, though, the gap between the Jackrabbits and the rest of the city has been smaller–they beat Lakewood by single digits twice last year, and Millikan took them to overtime the season before.
This year? Poly is looking a lot more like Poly. The Jackrabbits have four returning first-team All-Moore League players and seven returning all-league players in total. They have two senior scholarship signees already and talent across all four grade levels. They’re also returning to playing a competitive national tournament schedule, traveling to Arizona for the Nike Tournament of Champions and San Diego for the SoCal Holiday Prep Classic.
“It’s time,” said Buggs. “Even though we won that post-COVID year, that group that graduated was the last group that was part of Poly’s tradition. Since COVID, it’s almost like a new regime of kids coming in. These kids are just as talented, but it’s about leadership, that passed-down legacy thing. That’s what we faced last year, and hopefully this year we’re past that.”
Buggs said he’s got 14 players on varsity, all of whom could play–he said he has eight different starting lineups right now that will be narrowed down as the Jackrabbits try to build towards having a championship-caliber rotation.
Brooklyn Taylor is a surefire starter, as the 6’1” Cal State Bakersfield signee was one of the league’s most talented and consistent players last year. Always a natural scorer and rebounder, she began to evolve into an elite defender last year in Poly’s stifling system, and looks even stronger coming into her senior season.
Andrea Perkins is also a first-team All-League returner and is one of the city’s best shooters, capable of going off on a run once she gets going. Guard Jazmyne Shamburger (second-team All-Moore League) will likely be a starting lineup stalwart, and Buggs has a pair of more than capable point guards in junior first-team All-League returner Helena Vu and sophomore Jordyn Washington, a speedy pure point guard who missed last year with a knee injury.
Senior UC Merced signee Sydney Corder-Boyd is a 5’11” wing who can fill most roles for Poly and is a great example of the team’s depth this year. Junior Joy Anderson is a returning second-team All-League player who brings energy and athleticism; senior Jaleina Taliauli is a first-team All-League wing who brings some toughness to the court for Poly; junior Nevaeh Lemons (second team All-League) was a great defensive stopper for Poly last year and sophomore Sophia Montanez will join her in that role this year as well.
The team also has sophomore Bailey Pruitt and three freshmen in Laniya Tyler, pure shooter Tatyanna Aubry, and hyper-athletic Shirayah Lewis-Williams, a USA Track 800 finalist as a youth runner.
Taylor said she feels like the Jackrabbits have a title run in them this year.
“We have a solid team, we’re definitely a much stronger group than we had last year,” she said. “And we’ve been together for a year now, so we should be able to put it together. We’re just still trying to put all of our pieces together.”
Taylor is knocking on the door of the 1,000 point club, and has already signed her NCAA scholarship. Now she says a championship is the only thing left on her to-do list.
“I really want to lead my team to a championship because I feel that’s the only thing that I’ve been in high school without,” she said. “That’s something I want–to be a leader and to have this team leave our mark at Poly.”
Taylor also said she’s taking on a leadership role as far as helping teammates understand the team concept. With 10 players who realistically could start any game, she said she knows there could be hurt feelings.
“I’m expressing that that’s not what’s important right now,” she said. “I came off the bench in club this year. You’ve got to handle that adversity and figure out where your spot is and have the fire within yourself to play better. As soon as you get on the court control what you can control and produce. So it’s not whether you’re starting, it’s about how you’re finishing every game.”
Buggs said that even this deep into his long and storied career, he still enjoys the challenge of molding a roster into a team, and of teaching life lessons through basketball.
“I still enjoy the process,” he said after a recent morning practice. “I love the challenge of trying to get kids to be the best they can be, and understand what it takes to be successful. Whether you win a championship or not, understanding what it takes to be successful. I still enjoy the journey, the process. It’s definitely more of a challenge because there’s so many more distractions now, but I do still enjoy it or I wouldn’t be up this dang early.”