The Morningside girls basketball team (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

For the first time in 16 years, the Morningside girls’ basketball team earned a playoff berth. Their 13-4 overall record made the Monarchs a contending team in the Ocean League.

During the COVID-19 shutdown, Monarchs girls’ basketball head coach Keith Morris was able to teach his players how to play basketball.

“The success came because of the level of conviction that the girls started having towards developing their skills and understanding how the game is played,” he said.

Morningside is a young team, players were beating teams while understanding the fundamentals of basketball. Freshman E’ssence Tyler did not initially understand basketball, but each game improved her knowledge.

“I used to get on the courts and used to be confused … I used to be afraid of my teammates, of messing them up,” Tyler said. “After playing a few games, I got used to it … I knew that I was apart of the team because of my speed.”

Team meetings and Tik Tok dances helped the student athletes develop a strong bond. Tyler’s mother also created an Instagram account for them to upload photos of each other.

“Being at practice with them and them helping me learn the plays was really fun,” said freshman guard Breanna Campos.

Along with being a dominating force on court, the girls basketball team has been excelling in the classroom.

“We are the only athletic team at Morningside that had no problems academic-wise,” said Monarchs girls’ basketball assistant coach Wanzel King.  “Our girls are on the principal’s list, we’re getting A’s and B’s.”

The Monarchs had a 13-4 overall record this season (Courtesy photo)

When it came to choosing captains, Morris allowed all the players to take turns being captain and had the players choose who they wanted their captains to be. They ultimately chose sophomore guard Serenity Richardson, Prewitt, and sophomore center Yamilet Martinez. This was the first time Richardson was a leader on a basketball team.

“It was very hard because everybody was looking at what I did and how I react,” Richardson said. “I had to watch a lot of things that I did and what I said and it kind of made me mature a little bit.”

The Monarchs reached the Southern Section Division 4A playoffs but lost to Hueneme 32-44 in the first round. Junior guard Mishari Prewitt-Campbell, who battled back from an ACL tear to compete this season, enjoyed battling alongside her teammates.

“I came back from having an injury that most people wouldn’t come back to playing sports from,” she said. “When we played the first playoff game and I got to actually have fun with my team and even though we lost, being able to hug each other and cheer each other up after the game was my favorite moment.”

This was the first season that senior guard Alexis Campos played for the team. The passion and dedication her teammates showed caused her to fall in love with basketball.

“Everybody on this team taught me a little bit about basketball,” she said. “[Prewitt’s] leadership … [Richardson’s] leadership, it motivated me, I want to be on this team, I want to get better for this team.”