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FANTASTIC FRESHMAN Lady Bruin Underclassman Leads Offensive Push
Most teenage girls get their cell phones and iPods taken away when they haven't done their chores.

That maneuver doesn't work in the Luu family's Riverbank household.

"They don't care about losing their cell phones and iPods," father, Dzung Luu said with a laugh. "We take away basketballs and basketball practices, because that's what they really care about."

No kidding.

The Luu sisters in question - Riverbank High freshman Janelle Luu and Cardozo eighth grader Olivia Luu - are already basketball legends in the City of Action.

Both are acclaimed veterans of the Amateur Athletic Union system with the Ceres Shock Elite, and both have led Cardozo Middle School to impressive league championships in the past two seasons.

The next championship banner in the their sights is embroidered with a T-V-L (Trans-Valley League).

"We were in the gym at Riverbank High, and noticed the last time Riverbank girls won a league championship was in 1983," Dzung Luu said. "I told my daughters it would be really cool to bring a league title to Riverbank during their years here."

The feat seems nearly insurmountable, considering the TVL is dominated by a perennial state power with an open enrollment (Modesto Christian), which has won 50 straight league games without a single defeat in its four-year history in the conference.

But Modesto Christian won't have the Luu sisters - and neither will St. Mary's - the other private school system in the Central Valley that the two were encouraged to attend.

Dzung and his wife Paris said they considered sending the kids to another high school, but both girls had made Riverbank friendships they didn't want to part from.

The decision is a blessing for the Bruin girls basketball system, and it didn't take long for the oldest Luu sister to make that clear.

Janelle has led Riverbank in scoring in all but one of the first eight games of Riverbank's season.

She scored 41 points in three contests in Riverbank's first tournament of the year and landed a season high 24 in the third-place game of the Big Valley Holiday Classic on Dec. 11.

Her efforts, combined with the return of three four-year varsity players (Kaitlynn Deabenderfer, Aimee Felix and Breanne Magana), has done wonders for Riverbank's varsity production.

"To be honest I was a little worried with how the seniors would respond to a freshman coming in and leading us in scoring, but they have responded really well," Riverbank coach Tim Carnes said. "The seniors are really starting to take on that leadership role, and I will even see Kaitlynn take a freshman aside and work on individual aspects of their game sometimes."

Deabenderfer, an all around standout who has rotated through every position on the floor, gets pretty competitive with Luu during practice. But the aggressive approach is exactly what Luu needs to adjust to her small forward position during varsity play.

"I have sort of a love-hate relationship with Kaitlynn and also Aimee Felix (power forward)," Luu laughed on Thursday. "The seniors can be a little hard on us sometimes, but they are great and I'm proud of myself for keeping up so far."

Keeping up isn't much of a shock considering the competition Janelle faces in her own house.

She played softball back when Olivia first got into basketball, but picked the sport up quickly when Olivia's success spurred her own interest.

Now the two often square off in front of a small plastic hoop hung above a doorframe inside the Luu residence.

It's just a game, but you would think much more of it by the rumblings on the hardwood.

"Sometimes we will hear them going at that hoop at all hours," Paris Luu laughed. "We can hear them dribbling and banging off the wall in the middle of the night."

But impromptu basketball showdowns haven't hampered their study habits. Olivia sports a 4.0 grade average for Cardozo, and Janelle was at 3.86 in her last progress report - a number that both parents expect her to bring up before semester grades.

"As hard as they work in basketball, we feel they work even harder in the classroom," Dzung Luu said. "And they are students of the game too, so basketball just comes naturally for them."

Riverbank is 4-4 with just three games left on the preseason docket before a TVL opener at Modesto Christian.

The Crusaders are 5-2, with lone losses to San Diego powerhouses Horizon and Our Lady of Peace.

Robb Spencer, who played basketball with Dzung Luu at James Logan high school in Union City, coincidentally coaches Modesto Christian.

The reunion probably won't fall in Luu's favor, considering the Crusaders are still light years ahead of the rest of the TVL, but will be Janelle's first taste of tough league competition.

Ripon (3-1) is also expected to have a strong year, while Orestimba (7-4), Hilmar (5-3) and Hughson (4-5) are expected to battle with Riverbank in the middle of the pack.

Riverbank isn't particularly deep, but should be equally competitive if their starting five can stay in games and keep opposing defenses off balance.

Regardless of their season, the year will serve as valuable experience for Janelle while she awaits her sister's enrollment at RHS in 2011.

"We lose these great seniors this year, but we get my sister next year, and I'm looking forward to that," Janelle Luu said. "It's all really exciting."