Justin-Siena High School counts on Ashlee Whittemore, a junior point guard/shooting guard on the girls basketball team, for a number of things.
It’s Whittemore’s scoring and rebounding, her ball handling and passing, her defense and decision making, her knowledge and experience, and leadership that the Braves depend on so much.
“We really ask her to do a lot,” said Braves’ head coach Andy Bettencourt. “I think the positive about Ashlee is she does everything for us. We put a lot on her. She’s able to handle it, obviously, and does a great job.”
Whittemore is an integral part of the program, which has a very proud and successful history. She is now also in very elite company, joining a group that includes former Justin-Siena stars Vicky Deely, Janelle Travis, Haley Cremen and Morgan Malloy.
Each player has scored over 1,000 points.
“I think it’s unfair to compare players – we never do it, because every player has their own style, their own way of playing, and it also depends on just who you are as a player,” Bettencourt said last week. “I’m never in the business of comparing players.
“What I can say is that without a doubt, she definitely has been one of the best players since I’ve been here.”
As a freshman, she scored 212 points, averaged 11.2 points per game, and was among the finalists for Offensive Player of the Year on the 2016 All-Napa County team.
As a sophomore, she scored 429 points, averaged 15.3 points per game, and was among the finalists for Player of the Year on the 2017 All-Napa County team.
Whittemore did it all for Justin-Siena this past season, leading the Braves (13-14 overall, 7-7 Marin County Athletic League) to a tie for fifth place in the league and into the CIF North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs. She scored 511 points and averaged 18.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals per game.
For her all-around play, Whittemore has been named as the Napa Valley Register’s Player of the Year on the 2017-18 All-Napa County team.
“I’m super thankful and humble,” Whittemore, 17, said of the award. “I know there’s so many great players in this county, some of which are some of my really close friends. I’m super thankful for it.”
Whittemore is a three-year starter and for the second year in a row was named First Team All-MCAL.
She scored a season-high 36 points in the Braves’ 60-48 nonleague win in December over Orem (Utah) during the San Diego Surf n’ Slam Tournament. She shot 41 percent from the field and 32 percent from the 3-point line in that game.
“I think I worked hard every game. That’s pretty much all you can ask for,” said Whittemore. “You can control how hard you play.
“My teammates and I work hard every day at practice. We try our best every single game. We have a lot of chemistry off the court, too. We’re all really, really good friends. I think that also helps. We all work really, really hard to make sure that we’re doing the best that we can. I think it shows that we work hard.”
Named to all-tournament teams
Whittemore was named to all-tournament teams at the Redwood Empire Invitational Basketball Tournament and the San Diego Surf n’ Slam Tournament.
Justin-Siena’s record was 11-1 when Whittemore scored 20 points or more. The Braves were 2-13 when Whittemore scored less than 20 points.
“I think Ashlee’s biggest asset is how competitive she is,” said Bettencourt. “My favorite thing about Ashlee is she gets just as excited, if not more excited, when she’s able to make a pass for a teammate to score. That’s a big thing that sometimes can go unnoticed. Ashlee is a very willing passer. I think that’s a really big form of leadership, is that she really cheers for her teammates, she roots hard for her teammates. She wants everyone to do well.
“While she’s not maybe giving rah-rah speeches in the locker room, she leads in so many other ways. She works extremely hard. Pretty much every defense was focused on her and keeping her from the ball or stopping her in some way. It’s really a credit to her that she’s still able to get open, still able to find ways to score in the toughest of situations.”
Whittemore is among the nominees from the CIF North Coast Section for the 39th annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Girls Basketball Team.
“I think my teammates do a really good job of setting screens and making really good passes of when I need to get open,” she said. “Also, when teams are defending me or taking me away, my teammates can hit shots, too.
“I think overall, we played really well this year. We competed in every game. We were competitive in every game.”
Whittemore leads the Braves in just about everything – scoring, assists, steals. She is second in rebounding. She had six double-doubles this year.
She shot 41 percent from the floor, 32 percent from 3-point distance, and 75 percent from the free-throw line.
Whittemore has gotten better and better at finishing around the rim and getting herself to the free-throw line, said Bettencourt.
“She really does everything offensively,” said Bettencourt. “She definitely takes the majority of our shots, and that’s by design. She really did a good job of improving that this year in her game and drawing contact and getting there and then knocking down her free throws.
“She sees the floor really well and definitely has gotten better at the fundamentals of passing and getting people shots. There’s a lot of people that get really easy shots because of her delivering the ball.”
Whittemore had very good numbers all season for the Braves, with 511 points, 187 rebounds, 82 assists, 81 steals and six blocks. She is also a standout defender, playing smart, physical and aggressively on that end of the floor.
“Ashlee plays hard on defense,” said Bettencourt. “Where Ashlee is really valuable defensively is in our pressing. When we press, we put Ashlee in positions basically to play free safety, because of the way that she sees the floor and also her athleticism to go get the ball.”
Big part of Braves’ basketball history
There have been a lot of great players to come through the Justin-Siena program over the last 38 years — people like Vicky Deely, Janelle Travis, Haley Cremen, Morgan Malloy, Alexis Mezzetta, Lindsay Toscano, Amanda Lowenstein, Ann Corbett, Patty Schill, Sonja Van Winden, Cathy Narlock, Hailey Breakwell, Jessica Futo, Britney Hyatt, Kyleigh McAhren, Sadie Irvine and Chelsea Lazzari, just to name a few.
“You think of Justin as this powerhouse of girls basketball throughout the years, because you think of all the great players that have played here, the great coaches and everything that has happened at Justin,” said Whittemore.
“There is a lot of history. There’s so many great players that have come from Justin.”
Deely scored 2,480 points in 119 career games, Travis scored 1,082 points in 63 games, Cremen scored 1,653 points in 125 games, and Malloy scored 1,105 points in 126 games.
Whittemore has 1,152 points in 74 games, an average of 15.6 per game.
“She’s a really good kid,” said Bettencourt. “She’s got a big heart.”
Whittemore wants to work on her overall strength and increasing her speed during the spring, summer and fall months heading into her senior season.
“It’s a lot of preparation,” she said.