Camarillo’s girls’ basketball team entered Thursday night’s Buena Kiwanis Tournament game against Eltham College of Australia with a 7-2 overall record.
Marmonte League contenders Agoura, Thousand Oaks and Royal, as well as northern power Santa Barbara, have all been zapped by the Scorpions early on.
In his fourth season at the helm, ACHS head coach Michaeltore Smith and his staff have the athletes they need to implement a style of basketball that’s predicated on push-the-pace offense and in-your-face defense from the first minute through the last.
“My whole thing is this,” Smith said.
“We’re going to try and be better conditioned than you. We’re going to pressure you, see if we can get you to turn the ball over. We’re going to see if the pressure just wears you down over time. That’s the whole mindset behind this style of play.”
Sophomore twins supply the lighter fluid for Camarillo’s on-court blaze.
Geralynn and Geraldynn Leaupepe are listed as a pair of 5-foot-9 guards.
In truth, and despite still being somewhat raw skill-wise, the twin sisters can play any position on the floor and dominate.
The dynamic duo muscled its way to more than 31 points and eight rebounds per game through the Scorpions’ first nine contests.
Geralynn is Camarillo’s leading scorer while Geraldynn tops the team in rebounds, blocked shots and steals.
“Their speed, their strength, it’s something I haven’t seen in a long time,” Smith said of the twins. “They’re learning and improving their basketball skills—ball-handling, shooting—and becoming all-around better players.
“ They have unlimited potential. A lot of kids aren’t born with the types of physical gifts they have.”
Geraldynn Leaupepe said preparation and positive thinking is the key to Camarillo’s success.
“If we have a great start and mental mindset before a game,” she said, “we seem to have a greater sense of the goal we want to accomplish.
“We’re better going into a game knowing what to do rather than trying to figure it out during the game.”
Senior guards Rachel Schienbein and Breanne Gascon, as well as junior guard Micaela Pericone- Kapp, all average close to seven points an outing.
Schienbein and Gascon are often called upon to serve as distributors, bringing the ball up the court quickly and getting the offense set to strike fast.
They are team captains along with senior Amy Carr, who’s the Scorpions’ only true back-to-thebasket post presence.
Keeping the younger players pointed in the proper direction—five of Camarillo’s 11 varsity members are underclassmen— is an important part of the seniors’ job.
“They are young girls with a lot of talent,” said Gascon, the Scorpions’ assists leader and a four-year varsity member.
“But sometimes we need to tell them where to go or what to do because they haven’t all had time to learn everything yet.”
According to Gascon, beating Agoura and Royal, last year’s co- Marmonte champions, on back-to-back days at the Valencia High Five Classic earlier this month served as a major morale boost for the local girls.
Agoura, in fact, knocked Camarillo out of last year’s playoffs. Payback came in the form of a 67-45 Scorpion ambush on Dec. 2.
Other key contributors for ACHS are senior Allyson Hiji, juniors Kristi Nishimori and Vivianna Sandoval, sophomore Mary Luna and freshman Samantha Pericone-Kapp.
Roosevelt Bolden, Joy Garcia and Curtis Belton are assistant coaches.
Smith and the players credited Belton with having instituted a grueling conditioning program that has the girls in tip-top shape.
Since last season ended, the Scorpions have been running more than Forrest Gump following his breakup with Jenny Curran.
Camarillo’s players realize when you’re chasing the program’s first league crown since 2001, and only the third banner in school history, sometimes it’s necessary to take the extra step— or run an extra flight of stairs.
“We out-hustle teams, outwork them. We’re just scrappier. We play harder,” Schienbein said. “The training has definitely helped us. It’s good for us, but really difficult.
“Because we’ve worked out so much, it’s all led to us winning.”
ACHS finished second to Pacifica in last year’s final Pacific View League standings. According to Smith, the Scorpions girls have never defeated Pacifica in program history.
Camarillo gets its first crack at breaking the Pacifica drought at home on Jan. 12. The Scorpions play at Rio Mesa a week later.
“It’s not going to be a walk in the park trying to beat the top teams in our league,” Smith said. “It’s arguably one of the best leagues in the county this year.
“Every year our goal is to win the Pacific View title. Now we have to take the next step.”