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Duo earned stripes

Daily Pilot Girls' Basketball Dream Team

Estancia's Stratton and Newport Harbor's Thompson led their teams in different ways, but they share Newport-Mesa Player of the Year honors this season.

March 26, 2011|By Matt Szabo,
(Scott Smeltzer…)

Kassie Stratton played in the post because it fit a team need. Kasey Thompson played in the post because, well, that's expected when you're a 6-foot-2 girl.

Thompson took the scoring load upon herself for much of the season. Stratton made the Eagles successful because she didn't.

Stratton, a senior at Estancia, and Thompson, a Newport Harbor junior, displayed different kinds of leadership during the girls' basketball season. But each helped their team achieve its best season in years.

For that leadership, they share the Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year honor.

Stratton earned it by herself last year when she averaged 19 points per game. This year, she averaged "only" 15.4 while battling a calf injury early in the season. But the Orange Coast League MVP, who has signed with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was no less valuable.

She played the post. When opponents double-teamed, it opened up the three-point shot for Stratton's teammates.


"I didn't like playing post last year," said Stratton, a four-time Dream Team selection. "I kind of hated it. This year, it was fun for some reason. It was interesting. It was something new that I hadn't tried to be really good at. My scoring went down just because I didn't have to; I didn't have to score.

"[Freshman] Celia [Duran] came in and Yesenia [Maldonado] stepped it up, Brenda [Soto] stepped it up, Jenny [Boldizar] stepped it up, [Vanessa] Stafford stepped it up. We had two or three games in a row where we had five people in double digits [in points]. It's just all a team effort, you know?"

Co-Coach Xavier Castellano knew he had the ultimate team player in Stratton. She helped guide the Eagles to a 10-0 Orange Coast League record, their first league title since 2003. They finished 21-7 and won a playoff game for the first time in eight years as well, beating rival Corona del Mar, 44-38, in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A playoffs.

"She's been doing it for the last four years," Castellano said. "She was the best player in the league. She played out of position but she did a great job. Everyone's defense was focused on Kassie but she never complained. It was all about the team. She was like the third coach for us, always helping us and just being positive."

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