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Basketball Girls Prepare For Tough TVL Slate
The lines have been drawn.

When the Trans-Valley League girls basketball season begins on Jan. 3, the quest for seeds into the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs will be under way.

And nothing is certain.

The TVL sports an impressive 37-17 combined record against preseason opponents so far, with many of the best players in the conference back for another year on the hardwood.

Riverbank is no exception in that regard. The Bruins return seven players to the varsity lineup, including the talents of sister sensations Olivia Luu (sophomore guard) and Janelle Luu (junior forward). The pair combined to average over 27 points and over 15 rebounds a game as the Lady Bruins rallied to a 6-3 stanza to start the 2012-13 season.

Riverbank reached the finals of tournaments in Escalon and Stockton to start the year, falling to Division I powers McNair and Gregori to settle for runner-up honors on both occasions.

They sport a win over Liberty Ranch (7-4) and are the only team to beat Central Catholic (7-1) thus far. Riverbank's last contest was a 52-38 loss to upstart Sonora (6-2).

It's a promising outlook for a Riverbank team that went 17-8 and won a home playoff game last year.

"Well, here we go again," Riverbank coach Tim Carnes said. "I'm pretty excited this year."

Carnes returns three members of his starting lineup from last year, and the core of his scoring parade, considering the Luu sisters accounted for 665 of Riverbank's 1062 points in 2011-2012.

Gone are lanky rebounder Tiffany Edgar and speedy forward Angel Harrell (193 combined points last year), but an influx of fresh faces and the progression of a few returning ones have filled their voids.

Tori Sandoval, Vanessa Vargas, Amy McDonald and Raine Gallagher expect to make an impact while second-year varsity player, junior Kendra Garcia will hope for success coming back from an injury.

And the depth doesn't stop there.

Foreign exchange student Karen Kullerud is the tallest girl on the team at 5 feet, 11 inches. She joins fellow first-year senior Fabiola Garnica while juniors Chloe Arnold and Toni Adams will vie for playing time.

The depth of Riverbank's program will be seriously tested when conference play begins. Five TVL teams enter the year with serious aspirations of success. Hilmar is the only one among them to not reach the playoffs last year, but boast the best preseason record in the league at 7-0. None of Hilmar's opponents have winning records, but they allowed the Yellowjackets to outscore them 368-230. Hilmar returns the likes of Oliviah Gemperle, who was the team's leading scorer in 2011-12 and averages nearly 15 points a game this year.

Hughson (6-3) reached the postseason a year ago and returns two of their top three scorers and rebounders with guard Alyssa Perry and forward Bianca Trevizo. First-year sophomore standout Jessica Garcia (46 points this year) will also make an impact.

Ripon (6-1) was a No. 5 seed in the playoffs a year ago and opened the 2012-13 season with a perfect record until falling to the same Liberty Ranch team that Riverbank bested in the championship game of the Liberty Ranch tournament.

The Indians went 1-1 against Riverbank last year behind a 1-2 punch of Ruth Waters and Sidtia Sidtikun, who return along with the top-six Indians scorers and rebounders this year. Ripon returns more than any other team, providing plenty of recourse for Indians coach George Contente (131-62).

The juggernaut of the TVL is still Modesto Christian (6-1), which has won every conference game since joining the league in 2006 and has appeared in seven consecutive section title games. The Crusaders graduated both of their top scorers from last year, but return junior standouts Jasmine Hampton and Lexi Tubbs.

The TVL is still MC's to lose, but Riverbank's best shot to beat the Crusaders in league history will likely be this season. Modesto Christian's lone loss was an 84-24 shellacking to a St. Mary's team that is ranked No. 7 in the state by

Modesto Christian is beyond the top-35 on the state rankings and listed as a team "on the bubble."

Riverbank was at East Union on Monday, though results were not available at press time. The team plays visiting Modesto on Thursday, Dec. 20.