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Fantastic freshmen: St. Margaret’s girls basketball looking to make history with its young players

Tartans play Gahr for the CIF-SS Div. 5 AA title on Saturday night 

St. Margaret's freshmen Annika Tufo, Lila Wohlgemuth, Addie West and Taylor Francois pose at midcourt in Pasterneck Fieldhouse at St. Margaret's Episcopal School, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. St. Margaret's girls basketball is playing for its first CIF-Southern Section championship when it faces Gahr on Saturday night at Edison High School. (Ryan Kuhn, SOCoPrepSports.com)

Fantastic freshmen: St. Margaret’s girls basketball looking to make history with its young players

Josh Markum didn’t know what to expect when he was hired as St. Margaret’s girls basketball head coach.

The Tartans finished with just two 20-win seasons over the last 15 years.

But now, just two years into his tenure, a group of freshmen his made his job easier. They have turned the program into a championship contender and are just one win away from a CIF-Southern Section Championship.

“It’s hard to find one freshman with the skills they have. We have four of them,” Markum said. 

The Tartans young quartet features Lila Wohlgemuth, Addie West, Taylor Francois and Annika Tufo, each bringing their own unique skillset. 

“If you have a few players that can handle the ball, a few players that can rebound, and a few players that can score the ball, you are going to be a pretty good team,” Markum said. “We are fortunate to have these (players) help provide that.”

While many teams lean on experience and senior leadership, the Tartans freshmen have had to grow up pretty quickly. 

Just last week, Wohlgemuth scored 12 points in a second round win over Ocean View. She added 15 points this past weekend during a win over South Hills to reach the title game. 

“There’s never too big of a moment for her,” Markum said. “She is never flustered and always ready to hit a threes.”

The 3-point shot has been a valuable part of Wohglemuth’s but she is also learning to adapt her game when defenses key in on her outside shot.

“It’s all because of preparation,” Wohlgemuth said. “I get a ton of shots up when I’m in the gym and even days when we are not practicing I’m outside shooting with my brothers.”

Wohglemuth isn’t the only scoring option.

St. Margaret’s guard Taylor Francois goes up for a shot during a CIF-Southern Section high school basketball playoff game against Ocean View, Saturday,, Feb. 11, 2023 at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, Calif. (Ryan Kuhn, SOCoPrepSports.com)

Francois and Tufo are two other freshmen that can score in many ways whether it’s putting back an offensive rebound in the paint or hit a spot-up jump shot. 

Both finished in double digits in scoring during a 13-point win against Immaculate Heart in the quarterfinals. 

“These girls are just so cool, calm, collected and dedicated to the game,” Markum said. “You look at their hours looking at film, you would think they are assistant coaches.”

West is another player who can not only score but has shown to be one of the Tartans top defenders. 

“She is unlike any player I have every coached,” Markum said. “Her length and athleticism does so much. If she is guarding a smaller player who is quicker, she can block a shot. If she is covering a taller girl, she is still low enough so she can be quicker.” 

With senior point guard Kaitlin Tam and sophomore guard Harper Gideons starting in the backcourt, Markum has talked with his young players about the ability to be versatile that will expand their games in the years to come.

“That’s something we try to preach,” Markum said. “Everyone is interchangeable.”

Tartans will tip off with Gahr on Saturday night at Edison High School.

They entered the Div. 5AA tournament as the No. 1 seed but also arguably one of the youngest in the field. 

But the players don’t matter. Their goal is to make history at St. Margaret’s.

“We have always had this in the back of your mind. You always think what would it be like to play for a CIF championship.” Francois said. “Winning it would just showcase all of our hard work.”

Ryan was born and raised in Dana Point went to Dana Hills High School. He graduated from Sacramento State University with a BA in Journalism. Throughout his career as a sports journalist, he has covered high schools, colleges, and professional teams. After working for multiple newspapers in as many states, he came to the conclusion that what he really wanted was to make sure the high schools in his hometown area got the sports coverage they deserved. Follow him on Twitter @rskuhn

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