The Lowell has chosen the winter sports MVPs for this year. These players have lead their teams both on and off the field, both through their actions and their words. In addition each of them has extraordinary amounts of dedication to their sports, which has set them apart in teams that are full of very talented athletes. These are the players who can single-handedly change the fortunes of their team’s seasons with a single moment of inspiration — that is why they are winners regardless of the score.
Boys' Varsity Basketball: Senior Jon Li
As one of the few members of the team who saw significant varsity minutes last year, senior guard Jonathan Li’s experience has been a boon to his game and leadership.
A sharpshooting three-point maestro, Li played a key part in the Cardinals’ unique offensive game plan. After rotating the ball in a signature Lowell possession, Li was consistently on the end of a move to drain difficult shots from beyond the arc. “It’s a huge relief for us as a team knowing we can pass to Jon from anywhere on the court and he can hit a shot,” junior guard Aaron Wong said. Li averaged almost nine points a game, including 18 points against Galileo on Feb. 11, and 22 points in each of the preseason matchups with Piedmont and Jefferson.
When he is not topping the court in stats, Li turns provider, creating opportunities for teammates. “He gets everyone involved,” Wong said. “He balances taking his shots and getting other people shots very well.”
Li also leads the team emotionally, according to Wong. “Jon’s always been one of our more vocal leaders,” Wong said. “He constantly cheers for and encourages his teammates, but he’s not afraid to call them out to give constructive criticism.”
On the other side of the court, Li’s height and tenacity made him a valuable defender, frequently adding rebounds and steals and orchestrating the tight Cardinal defense.
When asked about his Lowell career, Li was quick to acknowledge the Cardinal program and his teammates. “I am truly blessed to have played under this organization,” he said. “I can’t thank the guys on the team, the coaching staff, and the fans who came to support us enough.”
Leaving behind the program as he looks ahead to graduation and his freshman year of college, Li said his Cardinal memories will stick with him forever. “Moments like cracking jokes, chilling in the locker room after games, and even when we yell at each other define our family,” Li said.
Although Li’s shoes will be difficult to fill on the court next season, his talent and leadership will leave next year’s team with plenty to emulate.
Girls’ varsity basketball: senior guard Angie Ng and senior center Lorna Tu’ufuli
When it comes to girls’ varsity basketball, there is no shortage of talent, skill, or ability. Each girl contributes to the overall success of the team, a success that clearly shows itself in an undefeated 14-0 season. But the team is not without its stars, two of which shine brighter than the rest — senior guard Angie Ng and senior center Lorna Tu’ufuli.
Tu’ufuli does it all. Not only does Tu’ufuli lead the team in points with an average of 8.3 points per game according to (www.maxpreps.com), she is also the second in rebounding, close behind senior center Hana Murphy.
Tu’ufuli is one of three captains of the team, she takes it upon herself to encourage and inspire. “I’ve had huge nerves before games the four years I’ve played on varsity, and I know exactly how they all feel,” Tu’ufuli said. “They are all capable of doing so much that the most I can do as captain is to encourage them always, and to try to lead them the right way.”
Ng, a player who prides herself with her unparalleled defense and strong fortitude, makes sure her presence is felt on the court. Ng has been playing since her 6th grade days in Cornerstone Academy and has gone on to play club basketball for the San Francisco Flying Eagles for six years. Second on the team in assists, Ng makes the plays happens. She steals, she shoots, she scores.
Boys’ frosh-soph basketball: sophomore center Antonio Hughes
Six-foot two sophomore center Antonio Hughes has consistently contributed points and rebounds for the Cardinals in every game. His speed, height and ability to drive in the key made him a top player who was successful on both offense and defense.
Offensively, Hughes is always one of the top scorers on the team, especially in big games. In the Cardinals’ season opener against Galileo, Hughes scored 16 points, the team’s second highest that night, helping the Cardinals beat the Lions in overtime. Against Lincoln, the center was back at it again on offense, leading the team in scoring — this time with 14 points. And in arguably the biggest game of the year — the Battle of the Birds that culminated in a double-overtime loss to the Washington Eagles — Hughes was right in the thick of the game, adding 10 points, finishing second in scoring. He averaged an excellent 13 points in these three key games.
Hughes also shines as one of the team’s leaders in defensive rebounds. In the game against Galileo, Hughes had 15 rebounds. That means he had what is called a double-double, where a player scores double digits in two stat categories. Obviously scoring double digits in points is going to help the team, but rebounds play another critical role. “Defensive rebounds are important so the other team won’t have a second chance on putting up another shot,” sophomore shooting guard Soren Carpenter said. “It leads to our offense.”
In addition to Hughes’s skills, being over six feet tall is another advantage. “Height helps so much because I’m able to get rebounds and finish at the basket without getting blocked,” he said.
Hughes is also a great leader. “I try to help the guys by letting them know their mistakes, like taking their time on free throws or telling them not to rush while we’re getting pressured by other teams,” Hughes said.
But the road does not stop here for Hughes. “My plans are to get better and better at playing basketball and win multiple championships; I hope to play basketball in college,” Hughes said.
Girls’ JV basketball: sophomore guard Allyson Lui
The Wallenberg Bulldogs had just returned to their side of the court when sophomore guard Allyson Lui launched a stunning turnover — a roar went up. Of course, the girls’ JV basketball team shouts out praise for teammates constantly, but for once in basketball ethics, a turnover alone won the applause of all the spectators.
Lui had a decent chunk of basketball experience before she joined the Lowell team. She was a guard on the Catholic Youth Organization team of Saint Monica Catholic School from third to eighth grade and played on three other teams before high school. “I was always a guard,” she said. “I was never tall enough to play anything else. I just had to work with what I had.”
Lui has been admired for being a “well-rounded player” by her teammates. “She’s good at handling the ball, at passing, at shooting,” coach Matthew Magsanay said. “It would be unfair to just say one thing. And she’s a leader on the team, too.”
Lui combines her skill and leadership both on and off the court to help her teammates. “When I have a turnover or when I make a different decision from what I should have done, she tells me what I could’ve done differently to make it better,” freshman guard Sarah Chow said.
For anyone interested in basketball or any competitive sport, Lui wants to leave some advice before she moves on to varsity next season. “Make sure that you stay in the moment,” she said. “Don’t think about the score or how much you’re winning by.”
Wrestling: seniors Lorenzo Pesino and Alondra Barajas
Lorenzo Pesino had a rough start when he first started wrestling. “It was a love-hate relationship for me: there were times when quitting crossed my mind my first year,” he said. “Wrestling takes so much out of you if you are taking the necessary steps for success.”
Apart from being one of the most hardworking wrestlers on the team, Pesino is also a leader through his actions. “He sets high goals for himself, which is important in any sport,” coach Michael Wise said. “He leads by the example of his work ethic. This has put him on track to reach his goals and influenced the rest of the team to reach theirs.”
During his off-season, Pesino also plays football. “Football really complemented my wrestling by making me more aggressive and giving me strong mental endurance,” he said. “In football, everyone is bigger than me. But in wrestling, I get to wrestle people my own size and weight. I tell myself, ‘If I can tackle and break away from 200 plus pounders, these 122 pounders should be nothing.’”
To Alondra Barajas, wrestling was a fun activity while growing up — she enjoyed mock wrestling matches with family member. “It is a sport that changed my life,” she said. “It made me healthier and more aware of my diet.”
Being the only girl on the team, Barajas has to practice with boys, which gave her an advantage over other female wrestlers as she is used to heavy-duty competition. “Wrestling with guys makes me tougher, because it prepares me for challenging and unexpected matches against wrestlers stronger than usual,” she said.
Recently, Barajas lost a family member, but wrestling helped her handle the loss. “Thanks to my teammates, they helped me overcome it and helped me to be more determined,” she said. She now uses the memory of her relative as a motivation to continue wrestling.
Barajas plans to wrestle in college, but also wants to participate in soccer. “Although I plan to wrestle more, I’ve played soccer since I was a kid and I currently play for Jamestown Soccer,” she said.