To hear Te-Hina Paopao and Jazzy Anousinh tell it, they just added a 6-foot-3-inch post player to last year’s mix, stirred, and poured — and voila, out came an undefeated La Jolla Country Day team ranked No. 1 in the country that rolled to victories in its first 16 games.
“Breya [pronounced bray-a] has really good hands,” rave both Paopao (a combo guard) and Anousinh (a point guard) of Breya Cunningham, this year’s new addition. “She is conditioned to play the whole game, so she doesn’t come out.”
“I was the tallest member of the team last year,” says Te-Hina, at 5-foot-10-inches, “so we had to rebound and shoot” basically out of position against taller teams. Not anymore.
Paopao, who is healthy, too, after ACL tears on each knee, simply describes the flow of coach Terry Bamford’s squad this year: “We’re really special. That’s all I’ll say.”
With Cunningham, a freshman averaging 11.9 rebounds and 2.8 blocks a game, Te-Hina can focus on her abilities as she supplies 24.3 points per game to the offense.
Anousinh, for her part, leads the undefeated team with 4.9 assists a game. “We push the ball from the time we inbound the ball,” says Bamford, in her 23rd year as head coach at LJCDS.
“The best shot is a shot with rebounders.” The pacing, though rapid, has to be under control.
A lot of sushi exchanges hands, it seems, as Paopao, Anousinh, and company further bond and play out the magic that has been forged in travel ball. “Summers are really fun,” enthuses Jazzy.
“Last summer we faced FBC, an AAU team with a 6-foot-7-inch girl [Kamilla Cardosa]. It was on the main court in the Indiana Pacers’ arena. They blew up every team before us. We lost by two, but a lot of teams were cheering for us against them. It felt like the whole gym was watching us.”
This season, the Torreys have travelled all over the country to win the Mark Keppel Invitational, the Sweet 16 Invitational, and the Nike Tournament of Champions (where they edged Sierra Canyon 44-43 to win the tourney title).
A healthy Paopao, who says she has a “complete game” she is taking to Oregon next year, dances her way to relaxation in practice. “I’m definitely the funny one,” she asserts. “The class clown. I put people in a better mood.”
One of those this works on is her close friend, Anousinh, who the pair agree “gets down on herself.” “I’m very hard on myself,” Jazzy says. But Te-Hina, right now wearing a bright blue Dodgers cap that fits her color scheme for the day, helps bring her around. “She tells me, ‘You got this. Keep shooting,’” says Anousinh. “We’ve been playing the longest together of our teammates.”
Bobi Mack, senior sixth man, with 6.1 points a game, is fifth in scoring behind Paopao, Cunningham (17.5), Jazzy (6.5) and Paris Atchley (6.4). The others are Puya Tufaga (3.9), Sumayah Sugapong (3.6), Alana Fesili (2.1), and Destiny Villareal (1.1 points, 1.2 rebounds).