After winning only one game, the boys’ team is looking forward to an injection of middle-school talent in the future.
This year’s eighth-grade team is undefeated and has won two local tournaments.
“(The eighth graders) are ready to play varsity basketball now,” coach David Ancrum said.
Ancrum said that the eighth graders have a very high “basketball IQ.” There aren’t any situations they’re nervous about because they’ve already seen them, he said.
Ancrum especially lauded the eighth-grade players for their “outstanding” defense.
He said he had only one rule this season: “I’ll let you do whatever you want on offense, as long as you play defense and rebound.”
“I think we have a lot more skill coming in next year,” sophomore Serajh Esmail said.
Junior Skovran Cunningham said he thinks the eighth graders will definitely help the team.
And freshman Emil Erickson is looking forward to playing with more people who are better than he is so that he can improve.
Besides the single win over Freedom Christian, there were bright spots this season. Cunningham said the boys grew more confident and started to figure out passing and spacing.
For instance, junior Jaspreet Gill started going to the basket a lot, Cunningham said.
Ancrum said the team needs to work very hard in the off season, noting that the eighth graders played almost every day last summer.
Esmail said that summer play would allow the team to better know each person’s strengths and weaknesses.
Next year, assistant coach Gary Brisco said, “we want to build with the younger guys.”
But he said that because there’s a transition between playing with eighth graders and playing with varsity players, it will be important to ensure that the new players get comfortable in their roles.
Ancrum said some of his goals for the team next year include staying aggressive and being more confident about their ability.
The girls’ team knew at the beginning of the year that it would be a difficult league season, according to head coach Matt Vargo.
“We as a team are not judging ourselves strictly on wins and losses,” he said.
So instead of focusing on their record, he set reasonable goals for the team.
For instance, in a game against Valley Christian, the team set a goal to score at least 30 points.
They scored 32.
“When we achieve those goals, we feel successful,” Vargo said.
Team spirit is also very important.
Sophomore Julia Owaidat said that coaches Vargo and David Ancrum are always “really pumped up.”
“They’re always jumping around, clapping their hands to make us feel encouraged,” she said.
During huddles, “(the coaches) consistently tell us to have fun and not focus on the score,” junior Isabella Tochterman said.
When she’s not playing, senior Maddy Mahla cheers on the girls from the bench.
“(Mahla) is the spirit of our team,” sophomore Saachi Sikaria said.
And while most players would occasionally get into foul trouble, Mahla had very few fouls, according to Owaidat.
“It became the goal of her season to get a foul call,” Owaidat said.
In the last 10 seconds of a game against Valley Christian, Mahla made her first major attempt to foul. People were yelling for her to foul the girl she was defending. Mahla hit the girl’s hand, but the referees didn’t call it because it was so late in the game.
Sikaria remembers most a game against Wilton Christian. “Even though we lost, I still remember it vividly because I played my heart out,” Sikaria said. “I got a few shots in. I tried multiple shots and I rebounded too.”
Sophomore Emily Berke remembered hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The team lost, but she said the moment was really exciting.
This year has proved to be a learning curve.
“I learned that you can’t just give up,” Sikaria said. “You have to try your hardest.”
Owaidat said that she learned to not get frustrated.
“Every player who’s played for a long time thinks that there’s nothing in their way (to winning),” she said. “Once you start losing games, you kind of start to lose confidence in yourself. You just need to be more confident in your abilities.”
Tochterman said that it was important to make sure that everyone’s contributing as a team, not individually.
Rather than getting upset at times, she focused on the positive improvements, she said. Vargo said the team will set higher goals next season since most of the other teams in the leagues are losing the majority of their contributing players.