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St. Helena Girls Basketball Preview

St. Helena Girls Basketball Preview: Saints look to snap 84-game league skid under new head coach Rexhepi

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Sofia Cupp

Then-freshman Sofia Cupp looks for an open St. Helena teammate to pass to as she gets caught up in traffic against visiting Kelseyville on Feb. 18, 2020.

It’s a new beginning for St. Helena High’s varsity girls basketball team and new head coach Leona Rexhepi said she and her young squad are excited about their prospects in 2021-22.

Since the 2013-14 season, when the Saints went 10-4 in North Central League I play and lost their North Coast Section Div. IV playoff opener at No. 2 seed Saint Mary's of Albany to finish 16-11 overall, they have had six consecutive 0-14 league campaigns and gone 15-131 overall.

“We’re all in this together,” Rexhepi, a senior at Pacific Union College, said before a recent practice. “I am pleased with how the girls have pushed themselves and have put in a lot of effort.”

The Saints are scheduled to open their first season in two years at 7 p.m. Wednesday against visiting Healdsburg. The NCL I canceled all winter sports in 2020-21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. Helena will try to snap its 84-game league skid starting Dec. 7, when it hosts Fort Bragg in its NCL I opener.

Rexhepi, who is on track to earn a degree in exercise science, said reviving the program is a process. She said if she and her players continue to focus on the fundamentals of the game, coupled with continuing to improve the team’s chemistry, then the results on the scoreboard will eventually take care of themselves.

“My message to them was always to take it day by day and focus on what we can improve on as individuals, as players, and as a team in total,” she said.

Rexhepi — who will be joined by assistant coach Dennis Paul on the Saints’ bench — cited inside scoring as a potential strength for her squad, which appears to have solid depth inside. While the coach acknowledged shooting is a potential weakness for her team, she also believes it can be largely overcome thanks to an aggressive attacking style on offense. It is a mindset Rexhepi wants her team to adopt going into every contest this season.

“That’s what I want them to know that as soon as the game starts — we’re looking to attack, attack the basket, and then see how it goes from there,” she said.

Rexhepi added her team plans to adopt a similar style on the other end of the floor, with man-to-man being its primary defense this season. Another element of the Saints’ defensive game plan will be employing an aggressive man-to-man press to set the tone early in games.

Handling the point guard duties will be junior Skylar Freutel and senior Andrea Tobon, while juniors Seeing action at shooting guard and small forward will be senior Sofia Rodriguez and juniors Aribella Farrell and Sofia Cupp.

Playing at power forward and center will be seniors Candy Guzman, Emily Hernandez and Alexa Aguila Gutierrez and juniors Ella White and Linnea Cupp. Rexhepi. who tabbed height inside as an advantage this team will often enjoy, said she expects the aforementioned quintet to account for much of the Saints’ scoring this season.

She added that for her team to enjoy success this year, it is incumbent that the perimeter players take care of the ball and limit the number of turnovers in each game.

“It’s a team sport,” the coach said. “It’s important for us all to get along with each other and help each other be better basketball players. And if we take care of things that we are trying to establish, like playing together, having good defense, pushing the ball (on offense) a lot in transition, a lot of things will take of (themselves).”

Meet the athlete who shows off seemingly superhuman feats with his incredible trick shots. Davide Panzeri is a master of both indoor and outdoor tricks covering sports such as baseball, soccer, basketball and tennis. His feats include bouncing ping pong balls accurately into two spinning hydro flasks, kicking a soccer ball from a roof across court into a basket and even getting two basket balls into a basket using a shovel. Davide has become so popular on TikTok that the platform has asked him to perform promoted live videos. The 32-year-old Canadian Italian, who shoots most of his videos near his current home in Vaprio D'adda, Milan, said: "Trick shots are sometimes scoffed at by some people. "They say anyone can achieve a goal after enough tries but what they don't realisze is that the results are extremely beneficial. "I could have never completed the tricks I am doing now even six months ago, I couldn't even think of them, never mind doing them. Compilation video

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