The competition is fierce between the two NAIA All-America guards on the Westmont College women’s basketball team.
But it’s not what you think.
Iyree Jarrett is averaging 15.6 points per game this year to move up to fifth place on the Warriors’ all-time scoring list with 1,385.
Stefanie Berberabe, who is scoring at a clip of 15.2, is within eight of cracking the Westmont top 10 with 1,242 points.
But the senior roommates and best friends are also among the top four in career assists, a category whose numbers are truer symbols of their nature.
“They’re constantly in a battle to see who can out-serve the other, like, who can get to the door first and hold it for the other person,” coach Kirsten Moore said. “It’s a battle to see who eats last: ‘No, no — you go!’ and the other one going, ‘No, you go first!’
“They’ll be in their room and one will say, ‘Oh, I’m thirsty’ — and the other one will try to beat her to the water, going, ‘I can get it!’ It’s almost a competition about who can be the biggest servant, and they’re like that with the entire team.
“They’re just selfless leaders, which goes a long way with the success and the chemistry of this team.”
NAIA COMES TO WESTMONT
That success includes a No. 2 national ranking for the defending NAIA champions. The Warriors (25-4), seeded No. 1 in the NAIA’s Liston Quadrant, will play host to the first two rounds beginning with Friday’s 5 p.m. opener against Westcliff, Ca. (14-11). The 7:30 p.m. nightcap will pit Science and Arts, Okla. (22-9) against Western Montana (15-13).
The winners will face each other on Saturday at 6 p.m., with a trip to the final four rounds in Sioux City, Iowa on the line.
“This town has a hidden gem in this team and they’ve got one more chance to see them play with this opportunity we have of hosting the national tournament,” Moore said. “Hopefully we can get a lot of the community out to see how special this team is, because they’re really dynamic and fun to watch.”
Berberabe still “gets goose bumps” when thinking about Westmont’s 72-61 victory over Thomas More, Ky. in last year’s NAIA final.
“When the final buzzer went off, confetti was flying out of the sky, and it felt like everything was happening in slow-mo,” she said. “It felt so unreal.
“Looking back to that whole season, with COVID and everything, we all really put in the work to get there. That’s a memory I’ll take with me the rest of my life, going through that with my teammates.”
Berberabe, last year’s NAIA National Player of the Year, had 23 points and four assists in the final to gain tournament MVP honors. Jarrett had matched her exactly with 23 points and four assists. Nobody was happier for Berberabe, however, than her roommate.
“It’s been so awesome to celebrate such a humble person because Stef will never tell you, ‘Oh, I got NAIA Player of the Year … I got GSAC Player of the Year,’” Jarrett said. “She never boasts about that kind of stuff.
“She’s so humble, and it’s really cool to have a teammate like that.”
BEST BACKCOURT IN GSAC HISTORY?
Vanguard’s Russ Davis, a four-time NAIA Coach of the Year, considers Berberabe and Jarrett to be “the best backcourt in the history of the GSAC.”
“He’s said that to me multiple times over the last couple of years,” Moore said.
Berberabe, a graduate of Lakewood’s Saint Joseph High School, had received little recruiting attention before taking matters into her own hands by writing an email to Westmont. Selena Ho-English, the Warriors’ assistant coach at the time, offered her an open tryout.
“We saw that she could go north-to-south real quick but didn’t really know what she was doing yet,” Moore said. “It was just all sheer instincts.
“Selena worked with her for her first couple of years and that really helped her learn to read things off ball screens and attack certain defenses … get that athleticism honed to a certain skill set within our offense.”
Moore, who previously served as an NCAA Division 1 assistant coach at both Oregon and Cal, said she’s never coached anyone quicker than Berberabe.
“She can find holes in a trap or a split, a ball screen, in places that I don’t even see — that nobody sees,” she said. “She somehow can create it and get there.
“But I think her biggest asset is how much heart she plays with. Overall, she’s just a fighter and such a true warrior of what we’ve always tried to be about on both ends of the floor. The first GSAC award she got nominated for was actually Defensive Player of the Year because she’s just scrapping and flying all over the place.”
Berberabe opened eyes at a more recent tryout. She was selected to play for the Philippine National Team in May’s Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.
“She absolutely stunned them at the tryout and became the media darling,” Moore said. “All the highlights and the social media were of her. She just blew their minds.
“They actually asked her to be part of their 3-on-3 team this last year but all the passport stuff hadn’t been worked out.”
KIN TO A POINT GUARD
Jarrett, the daughter of former Cal State Fullerton point guard Kenroy Jarrett, was a better-known commodity when she came to Westmont from Brea Olinda High.
“We went out on the club circuit to watch her play, and we just loved the IQ and the joy she played with,” Moore said. “She always had a smile on her face.
“She really fit what we were looking for as a whole person, just character-wise and faith-wise.”
Jarrett’s 514 career assists have moved her within 18 of Becky Gibb (Class of 2004) for second place on Westmont’s all-time list. The record of 617 was set by Amber Stevens, a former Dos Pueblos High star who graduated in 2010.
“Iyree just loves thinking through, ‘Where’s the mismatch?’ And, ‘Where should we go?’” Moore said. “She loves that aspect of basketball and breaking teams down, analyzing where we should be attacking and things like that.”
Jarrett’s father, who played professionally in both Poland and Latvia, runs a training center in Irvine called KJ Basketball 24/7. Her sister Shailissa plays for GSAC rival Hope International, which will also open NAIA Tournament play on Friday. Her step-sister, Jasmine Rachal, averaged 16.7 points this season for Irvine’s Concordia University.
“I’m from a big basketball family,” Jarrett said. “My dad coaches my little brother and he’s also a trainer of 5-year-olds all the way up to NBA guys.”
MORE THAN JUST BASKETBALL
Both Jarrett, who’s majoring in religious studies, and Berberabe, a psychology major, say their strong Christian faith has helped gird them for the pressure that comes with defending a national title.
“Coach Moore makes sure that we remember that we’re playing for an audience of One, and that it doesn’t matter who’s in the stands or what the outcome is,” Berberabe said. “As long as we prepare the best we can and glorify God through it, that’s all we need to do.
“That’s a huge focus of our team and that’s going to help us a lot going into nationals.”
Westmont’s family atmosphere is what drew them there in the first place.
“Coach Moore isn’t just a basketball coach,” Jarrett said. “She really is a great mentor and has a lot of wisdom on and off the court.
“And while she’s super-competitive and pushes us on the court in a lot of ways, mentally and physically, she also really cares about us and loves us off the court.”
That feeling has percolated throughout Westmont College’s roster, beginning with its two senior leaders.
“We’re so supportive of each other,” Berberabe said. “We celebrate each other’s success. Our team is like that, too.
“It’s more than just basketball. It’s just the whole journey of being around loving people with whom, I’m excited to say, will remain my best friends.”
That door will never close, no matter who gets to hold it open.