Young talent propels last year’s CIF runner ups


Kiki do you love me?: Forward Kiki Iriafen ’21 shoots a free throw in a game against Palisades Charter High School on Nov. 27 while guard Kimiko Katzaroff ’21 and forward Ella Price ’20 prepare to rebound. The Wolverines won the game 71-43. (Photo Credit: Will Mallory/Chronicle)

William Mallory

The girls’ basketball team picked up right where it left off last season, continuing its success with an overall record of 6-3 to start the 2018-2019 season. The Wolverines will begin Mission League play on Jan. 8 against Notre Dame High School as they look to repeat last year’s undefeated season.

The squad debuted with a 60-52 victory over El Camino Real High School on Nov. 14 to kick off the season. Led by 6-foot-4 forward Kiki Iriafen ’21, the Wolverines overcame early turnovers to escape a late push from the Conquistadors to start the season undefeated.

“It felt good to win our first game,” guard Mirabella Wong ’20 said. “But, it is so early and the season, and it is important to stay humble and keep working until we get to where we want to be.”

The Wolverines proceeded to rout Valencia High School on Nov. 20 57-34 in Taper Gymnasium to advance to 2-0. Their undefeated streak did not last long, though, as they fell to current CIF champions,Windward school, 73-43 on Nov. 21.

“After our first loss, we were initially upset because our goal was to win every game possible,” guard Ella Price ’20 said. “But after a little time, we were able to move on and focus on the games ahead.”

Forward Ella Price ’20 drives to the rim before passing to a teammate. (Photo credit: Jackie Greenberg/Chronicle).

The team did just that, winning four of its next five games and finishing with a season-high 71 points Nov. 27 vs. Palisades Charter High School. Iriafen, who finished the game with 31 points, said that the squad was starting to develop a strong chemistry on the court.

“We are becoming more comfortable with each other which is translating on the court more and more every day,” Iriafen said. “We make sure everyone touches the ball and has an opportunity to score.”

This season, the Wolverines were tasked with replacing the roles left by record-setting twins Jayda and Jayla Ruffus-Milner ’18. The duo, now playing at Pepperdine University, led the Wolverines to the CIF Regional State Semifinals with each twin averaging nearly a double-double per game.

Despite the loss of the sisters, the Wolverines have continued their success in the early season. In particular, sophomores Kimiko Katzaroff ’21 and Krista Semaan ’21 have stepped up next to Iriafen to lead the squad to several of its wins. Katzaroff said she is content with the team’s efforts thus far, especially this early in the season.

“As we play more games, we’re all becoming more confident as a team and we’re beginning to work together really effectively,” Katzaroff ’21 said.

Iriafen wins the tip-off for the Wolverines to start the game. Iriafen finished with a team-high 28 points in win. (Photo credit: Jackie Greenberg/Chronicle).

Iriafen said that although she has been happy with the team’s performance this year, she knows there are still a lot of improvements to be made.

“We need to improve on defensive box outs and free throws,” Iriafen said. “Those are big factors that matter and can ultimately determine who wins or loses when it’s a close game.”

The Wolverines will play in the West Coast Jamboree Tournament over winter break Dec. 28 and 29. They will then participate in the Desert Heat Classic from Jan. 3 to Jan. 5 before kicking off league play.

“Our season has definitely gotten off to a solid start,” Wong said. “We have developed a good chemistry within our team, and it has been helping us perform successfully together and get through tight games.”