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St. Margaret’s girls basketball approaching CIF-SS tournament with ‘humble confidence’

Tartans enter the playoffs with a chance to repeat prior success 

St. Margaret's girls basketball players Annika Tufo (left) and Harper GIdeons (right) look during a high school girls basketball practice, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2024 at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. St. Margaret's starts the CIF-Southern Section Div. 3A tournament against Aliso Niguel on Thursday. (Ryan Kuhn, SOCoPrepSports.com)

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — It’s not hard to find success when looking at the St. Margaret’s girls basketball team. 

The Tartans are the defending CIF-Southern Section 5AA champions and have had more wins over the last two years than any other South Orange County team. 

But third-year coach Josh Markum is not letting his players get arrogant. 

“We are approaching this year with what we call humble confidence,” he said. “They are confident in their ability, they are confident playing in February but also they should be humble, This is a step up for us.”

St. Margaret’s’ season included a Pacifica Garden Grove Tournament trophy, and some redemption defeating Calvary Chapel in the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei despite finishing runner up in the Orange Coast Conference. 

It was also the first time the Tartans had consecutive 20-win seasons in more than 20 years. 

“My initial worry was that they were going to be satisfied, but it’s been the complete opposite,” Markum said. “The more success they have had the hungrier they get. We still want to reach our goals.”

St. Margaret’s’ recent success will give them a harder road to travel than last season. The 3A bracket that includes top-seeded JSerra (18-9), Jordan (19-8) and Villa Park (17-10). Dana Hills is also in the bracket, a team that the Tartans beat twice this season. 

“We have really tried in crease the level of our competition and with the successes and the failures from it has worked out perfectly,” Markum said. “We had some Div. 1 and Div. 2 opponents that were top 10 in Orange County.”

St Margaret’s girls basketball coach Josh Markum directs a drill during a high school girls basketball practice, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2024 at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (Ryan Kuhn, SOCoPrepSports.com)

Unlike some teams who retool their rosters, the Tartans’ core group of players are young but experienced. 

St. Margaret’s (22-6) graduated six seniors following their CIF-SS title but returned the bulk of the rotation including junior Harper Gideons and sophomores Lila Wohlgemuth, Annika Tufo and Taylor Francois. 

With so much success early in their careers Wohlgemuth said an advantage is they know what it feels like, preparing and winning but also creates a pressure with the bar raised so high.

“There’s a good amount of pressure,” Wohlgemuth said. “We want to be pushed and we want to win for (our only senior, Sophia Gazzaniga). It would be crazy to go back-to-back.”

Orange Lutheran and La Salle did that feat last year after moving up a division and prior to that, Windward won back-to-back Open Division titles in 2018 and 2019. 

”This is such a special group, if there was a time to go back-to-back it would be with this team,” Gideons said. “It would definitely be huge for this program.” 

But Markum won’t let his players get too ahead of themselves. The Tartans host Aliso Niguel on Thursday.

“They are going to give us everything they can,” Markum said of the Wolverines.

“We want to make history in this moment and not let it pass us by. If this team turns out to be a dynasty and I want them to look back and make sure they enjoyed it.”

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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