Highlights: Ebbony Wilson, St. Mary's Academy hold off reigning City champ Birmingham at Cali Live

Wilson was dominant against Birmingham and all weekend long for the Belles, averaging above 25 PPG
Photo by Lance Smith

LADERA RANCH, Calif. - Led by versatile, high-scoring lead guard Ebbony Wilson, St. Mary's Academy looked formidable at Cali Live 2024.

The Belles picked up three double-digit victories in four games, including a 66-51 defeat of reigning CIF-LACS Open Division champion Birmingham.

After trailing by upwards of 15 points early in the second half, Birmingham made a run and cut the deficit down to seven points. But St. Mary's withstood the run and finished strong to win by one of their largest margins of the game.



  • Wilson dominates all weekend

Ebbony Wilson led the way on offense against Birmingham for SMA, like she did all weekend; after this game, the Belles' third of the weekend, she was averaging 28.7 PPG, which was second overall out of several hundred players (among submitted stats). And she led them to a 58-47 victory against Ventura to close Cali Live out.

The 5-foot-10 lead guard isn't just a scorer, either. In fact, she stuffs the entire rest of the stat sheet. Heading into her senior year, the 1,000-point scorer has averaged 15.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.0 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game in three seasons.

  • Both teams are nearly unguardable when threes are falling

With so much speed and ball-handling to go with significant length and passing ability, SMA and Birmingham are both very hard to match up with when they can space the floor.

In addition to Wilson, rising junior G'layah Salazar is another 5'10" slasher with a unique paint-oriented skillset for a wing. She nearly averaged a double-double last season with 10.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game to go with 2.1 steals. And 6'1" center Layia King, also a rising junior, is one of the premier offensive rebounders – and defensive rebounders, and shot-blockers – in the Southern Section. So cementing stops with boards against the Belles is a tall task, especially when the floor is spaced.

Against Birmingham, and for most of the weekend, everyone else on St. Mary's contributed to its strong ball movement and floor spacing, and defensively as well. Namely senior point guard Samai Granger, who might be the team's biggest breakout candidate next season.

In addition to defeating Birmingham and Ventura, the Belles routed University 80-55 and fell 58-47 to Central Section stalwart San Joaquin Memorial.

As for Birmingham, the Patriots managed to win their first Open Division title in 2021-22 without even spacing the floor exceptionally well. But when they won number two last season, it was probably their best three-point shooting team ever, and their floor spacing unlocked an offensive ceiling they hadn't reached before.

Once again, nobody else in the City Section – and rather few teams anywhere in SoCal – have as much low-post scoring firepower as Birmingham between power forward Zoee Mitchell, center Lili Martinez, and versatile rising sophomore Andrea Arosemena. With Kamora Coleman and Annette Jones returning in the backcourt, pretty much everyone who'll see the floor for Birmingham is a threat to score inside, including from their own creation. And while Birmingham has long been dangerous in transition, half-court execution has not been an issue either.

So, if the Patriots are going to hit threes consistently even with DeeDee Berry, Sammy Velasquez, and Natalie Lopez gone, they'll still be almost impossible to shut down in the paint.

  • Birmingham has the tools to reload quickly

Not only do all those aforementioned Patriots return after contributing to the best season in program history, but they also fill out all positional needs across the court. It appears that the CIF-LACS will be particularly wide open in 2024-25, but it's consensus that Birmingham will come in considered one of the teams to beat in the CIF-LACS once again.

Birmingham went 1-3 at Cali Live, but it didn't lose to any slouches in SMA, Mark Keppel, and St. Ignatius. It also wailed on Rosary Academy for a win. Just a month after graduating its three top producers on offense, it's no surprise that the team's offensive performance was up-and-down, but other than the St. Mary's loss, its defense was staunch. And with their returning personnel and pedigree, the 2024-25 Patriots have all the makings of another lockdown Birmingham defense that rebounds as well as anyone in the City.

Long story short – the Patriots are understandably a work in progress in June, but the upside to contend for another title is there, and there are plenty of reasons to think they'll round into peak form before February.


During evaluation periods, also known as "live viewing periods", NCAA coaches get rare opportunities to scout players in person at certified events. With dead periods and quiet periods taking up most of the summer, live periods provide the majority of the very few chances for those college scouts to watch players from May through August. No contact between NCAA D-1 or D-2 coaches and recruits is allowed during evaluation periods.

Other top CIF-Southern Section teams at Cali Live included Brentwood School, Windward, Fairmont Prep, St. Anthony, North (Torrance), Bishop Montgomery, Moreno Valley, Orange Lutheran, Village Christian, Mira Costa, Harvard-Westlake, Redondo Union, Santiago (Corona), Buena Park, Ventura, San Clemente, and many other prominent programs.

The showcase was also well-represented by SoCal's other two sections, the CIF-L.A. City Section and CIF-San Diego Section. Six of last season's eight Open Division City selections were in attendance – in additon to Birmingham, the reigning champion, Palisades, King/Drew, Hamilton, Granada Hills Charter, and El Camino Real were all there. And the CIF-SDS had a slew of representatives across numerous divisions, including Open Division champion Mission Hills, Bonita Vista, Francis Parker, Victory Christian Academy, and Carlsbad.

Many other big-name programs came from out of the area and even outside the state to play as well, with the CIF-Central Section particularly well-represented by the likes of St. Joseph, Caruthers, Clovis, Central (Fresno), Bakersfield Christian, San Joaquin Memorial, Monache, and Morro Bay. Northern California contenders on-site included Acalanes, Pinewood, McClatchy, Vanden, St. Mary's (Stockton), and Cardinal Newman, and out-of-state strongholds Camas (WA), Jefferson (OR), and Democracy Prep Agassi Campus (NV) also made the trip to Southern Orange County.

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Lance Smith