By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Sports Editor
If Feb. 12, 2010 seems like a long time ago, that’s because, well … it was.
On that date, the girls of Mark Keppel High were defeated by rival Alhambra, 53-45, according to MaxPreps. It not only marked the last time the Lady Aztecs lost to Alhambra, it was also the last league loss to anybody.
On Friday, Keppel completed its 2022-23 regular season schedule by pushing aside visiting Montebello, 78-24, thereby extending its Almont League winning streak to 130 games.
In high school – any level, frankly – that’s a truly impressive stretch.
At 10-0 in league and 23-6 overall, Keppel will enjoy a bye when the CIF Southern Section playoffs get under way on Thursday. The Aztecs will await the winner of the Cajon-Calabasas game for a Div. 2A matchup Saturday at home.
Despite their league dominance, however, Keppel has seen disappointment in recent years in the postseason, failing to advance past the second round in the last three years.
“We’ve got to break that second-round curse,” said Keppel senior guard Kylie Sakatani. “We have a good mix of seniors and younger players – they really are the future, but we have a team that can win now.”
One of the faces of the present and future is junior guard Kylie Ng, who finished with five points against Montebello. She said the team is at a good place psychologically ahead of the playoffs.
“Going into CIF, we have a lot of positivity,” Ng said. “We’re mentally strong, and with our home crowd behind us, I think we’re going to be able to handle the pressure.”
Annie Ye led Keppel with 16 points, including four 3-pointers.
Sakatani scored eight, Keira Kamida and Maile Tamaki each had five points, Jayde De Leon had seven, Jasmine Yoshitake netted four and Kiele Ohashi added three.
Yoshitake said the key in the postseason will be the communication between her teammates.
“We’ve been working on that a lot recently, and there’s a lot of improvement,” the senior explained.
Keppel is in good hands headed into CIF, with the support of assistant coach Sydne Kaku, a 2016 Keppel grad who was a key part of the teams that were at the creation of her school’s current basketball dynasty.
As much as anyone, she wants to see the current Lady Aztecs realize their potential in the playoffs.
“This team can get over the hump, I’m confident of that,” Kaku said. “We need to refine our communication, and once they have that, they look good, like they’ve been playing together for years.”
Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS / Rafu Shimpo