Usually a first-year varsity head coach doesn’t know much about league opponents until they see them once.
But coming up from the Napa High junior varsity girls basketball helm, Taylor Willis was pretty familiar with the five American Canyon players who came up from the Wolves’ JV. They get a lot of playing time, with only three players back from last season’s varsity team.
Actually, four are back if you count senior Cameron Genteroy. But because she ended up at American Canyon after her third transfer, most recently from Bethel, she had to sit out all of last season. She could only practice with the Wolves and watch from the bench during games. But she did, and is now third in scoring (6.9 points) behind returning sophomore point guard Trinity Billingsley (13.3) and freshman phenom Jazmine Fontilla (11.4).
“Even though I couldn’t play last year, it was nice to be around my teammates, and I didn’t want to just stop practicing basketball,” Genteroy said. “I still wanted to play. I still loved the sport.”
Head coach Angela Davis expects Genteroy to have more success before long.
“I think Cameron may put a little too much pressure on herself, but I think if she relaxes she’ll be fine,” the coach said. “She’s a hard worker and very humble kid who makes no excuses for things when they don’t go well. She is able to take feedback, even on things she doesn’t want to hear, and comes back into the gym ready to work. Every coach wants a kid like that.”
Of the six underclassmen on last year’s team, only senior Louralei Salanga, sophomore Jullianna Cornelio, Genteroy and Billingsley are back. Current senior Emma Lopez decided to try wrestling and is doing very well with it, and sophomore Alexis Woodson transferred to Monte Vista in Danville.
“Last year we had a lot of new freshmen come onto the varsity,” said Genteroy. “This year, half the JV team came up so most of us know each other and we can connect better.”
Leading the newcomers, along with Fontilla, are junior captains Mya Wright and Amaree Bennett and three other juniors who came up from the JV, Jasnoor Sidhu, Olivia Gradington and Emily Aranda.
Rounding out the team are sophomores Jocelyn Aandahl and Destiny Evans, who – like Gradington – is 5-foot-11.
“Jazmine is getting her legs wet on varsity this year, and the girls who are returning want to be better than they were last year, or at least fall in line with it. I think we have the talent to do that,” Davis said. “We have to make our free throws, reduce our turnovers and get better on the offensive boards to give ourselves some second-chance opportunities, winning should take care of itself.”
You have free articles remaining.
The five players who came up from the JV had a strong 14-11 season last year, going 6-6 in the VVAL.
“We had a really successful JV season,” Wright said. “We had really good talent and it’s the same team. But moving on to the new level, with the new speed and intensity, was kind of like a shock. So we’re trying to acclimate ourselves to it and get to know each other, how we play, so that we can improve together.
“One thing we’re working on is riding the wave of the energy. Once we start making really good sequences, that’s when we just ride the energy and the momentum and keep pushing.”
Added Genteroy, “We’re sharing the ball more. When we do that, we have better shot selection.”
Having won six times on JV last year, those players would love to help get their first varsity wins.
The Wolves were 11-15 overall and 3-9 in the VVAL last season, and took 7-11 overall and 0-3 VVAL records into Thursday night’s home game against Petaluma.
“It would feel like a relief, like a weight would be lifted off of our shoulders,” Wright said of getting the first league win. “We know we can do it, and we’re almost there. It’s just the will and the want to do it. “I feel like we’re jelling more. We’re understanding each other more at a personal level and that’s helping us on the court, too.”
In a 50-39 loss at Napa on Tuesday, the Wolves trailed by 17 points early. They nearly erased a 20-10 deficit with a 20-11 second quarter to pull within 31-30 by halftime. They pulled to within one again several times in the second half, but couldn’t get over the hump.
But head coach Angela Davis was encouraged.
“If you looked at us at the beginning of the season, we never even got to the hump. In this game, with us being able to get to the hump, to fight and shrink a 17-point lead down to a 1-point lead, to me that’s progress, so we’re going to take that and build on that and see how we can do that in the third and fourth quarters,” she said. “If we do that, good things will start to happen and we’ll roll into the second half of league and hopefully into some postseason play.”
Davis said that with only eight healthy players – Sidhu is on concussion protocol and Cornelio has a knee injury – it’s been hard to put up points.
“Right now defense is where we have to hang our hat,” she said. “We’re still working it out,” she said. “Each game we get a little bit better and each game we see opportunities that we still have. Sometimes our guards are playing down in the post, so that little physicality may take a little toll. But I think once we get everybody back and we continue to work on it in practice, I think we’ll be fine.”