The girls’ varsity basketball team started the league season with a win, and they hope to end it with another one – in the championships.
According to coach Latonia Pitts, the team could finish first in the league.
“My goal is to get them there and make it as far as we can in playoffs,” she said.
There have already been improvements since the first game against Vacaville Christian on Nov. 28.
“Team-wise – including last year’s season (which lost in the semifinals) – we’ve started to gel more and more as a team, with players coming into their own and playing bigger roles,” sophomore Heidi Johnson said.
“Instead of relying on one or two people, there’s more participation from all players, whether it be with shooting, assisting (or) defense.”
Along with team unity, ball movement has improved.
“We are seeing each other better on the court and throwing better passes,” co-captain junior Yasmin Gupta said.
Junior Annya Dahmani agreed, saying that the better ball movement allows for more plays.
Dahmani said the most significant game this season was against El Dorado Adventist on Jan. 5 because Gupta fouled out early in the game, pushing other players to step up.
“That game showed that we could still play well without having our best player on the court,” she said.
All three feel as though they have also personally improved: Dahmani on attacking the basket, Gupta on playing one-on-one and Johnson on stepping up to opportunities.
If the girls are aiming for championships, they’ll have to defeat Valley Christian, which is the strongest team in the league.
“I want to beat Valley (which the girls will play on Tuesday, Jan. 24) at least once during my high-school basketball career,” Dahmani said.
But first the team must overcome some problems, especially on offense.
Two players, freshman Briana Davies and co-captain senior Alexa Mathisen, have been out because of injuries.
But Pitts said that commitment and a lack of attendance in practice and games are the biggest problems.
She said that spotty attendance at practices causes confusion or panic during game plays, not to mention the threat of being out of shape from not practicing enough.
“We don’t always see the court or run plays,” Johnson said. “(We also don’t spend time) swinging the ball and trying to get open. We pass once or twice and then go for a shot, even if it’s strained or we have bad alignment.”
However, a united offensive presence isn’t the only obstacle. Others are the dreaded turnovers and rebounding.
“There are some games where the amount of turnovers we have is ridiculous; it’s an absurd amount,” Dahmani said.
“We sometimes throw the ball without realizing what we are doing, and we lose the ball.”
In the game against Cristo Rey on Jan. 6, there were a whopping 29 turnovers.
The problems lead back to Pitts’s greatest worry: commitment. On many occasions there have been only five players at the end – or sometimes even the beginning – of the games.
However, the team usually plays with enough energy to compensate.
“(Latonia) really emphasizes having everyone on and off the court being energetic and talking,” Dahmani said.
Four games in they haven’t lost a league game, having beaten Sacramento Adventist, El Dorado Adventist, Cristo Rey and Lutheran.
When former varsity player Julia Owaidat, ‘16, came to the Jan. 5 game, she contrasted this year’s and last year’s team.
“The team is more aggressive this year,” she said. “Girls are driving to the basket a lot harder.
“But last year we were one of the strongest defensive teams to compete against – it seems we have gotten used to playing small teams and, as a result, don’t box out as much as before.”
Dahmani said that this year’s skill level is equal to last, but according to Owaidat, the focus has switched from defense to offense.
Owaidat said everything comes down to one simple question: “Who wants the ball more?”
The girls have some work to do, but that coveted number-one spot might be in the near future.
They just have to want it enough.