The start of the girls basketball season is set to start Wednesday. The Surprise Independent asked the local coaches for their outlook on the season.
4A Skyline Region
2021-22 Record: 19-6 overall, 10-0 region (reached quarterfinals of 4A playoffs)
Coach: Nate Jackson (second year as Paradise Honors head coach)
Top Returnees: G Nakyah Williams, Jr. 5-2 (15.5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 2.6 spg), G Morgan Van Dyke, Soph., 5-7 (9.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.9 spg)
How many years have you coached girls basketball? I have coached basketball for 5 years
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Our best attribute entering this season is the chemistry between our returning experienced players and our younger players. We only have one senior this year but we are returning four varsity players who played significant time last year. We also added a group of younger players who have played significant time with each other. The mixture of the two has allowed us to have chemistry that I typically wouldn’t see until the middle of the season.
What will your team need to improve for this season to be a success? We are going to have to get better at controlling the tempo of the game and handling physicality and pressure. If we can do those things well we should have a fun year.
Who are your team leaders? Our team leaders are Morgan Van Dyke, Hannah Hughes and Lina Marsh.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? We have two incoming freshmen that should make a significant impact on the varsity squad, Star Nwibichie (5-10, F) and Jaelyn Perez (5-6, PG).
What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? We will need our younger players to play beyond their years and for us to play our style of basketball. Last year we finished the year further than any Paradise Honors girls basketball team has done in school history. In order to get to the state tournament we will have to do it as a collective.
6A Southwest Region
2021-22 Record: 15-12 overall, 5-5 region (6A play-in round)
Coach: John Williams Jr. (first season as Shadow Ridge head coach)
Top Returnees: PF Alayah Ramirez, Sr., 5-10 (5.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg); F Olivia Holub, Jr., 5-7 (5.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg).
How many years have you coached girls basketball? Ten years with the same school! Love my Shadow Ridge Stallion family!
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Passion. We have a group that loves to compete and be in the gym.
What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Consistency. Not taking a single play off. Valuing every opportunity as if tomorrow didn’t exist. Leave it all on the floor every time they lace up.
Who are your team leaders? Shaelyn Anthony, Alayah Ramirez and Olivia Holub are my playmaking returners from last season’s playoff team. However, my leaders are selfless, committed, dedicated not only to their skills and team, but also in the classroom and as representatives of our program. I expect that character from all our athletes.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Kinzley Jones will be a problem with lock down defense and quick-step rim attacking abilities. Kendra Ikeji will make drivers put it in reverse with her rim protecting athleticism and explosive post moves on the other end. There are more but you’ll have to attend a game to see.
What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? Unwavering faith. As long as we believe in one another, trust the teammate next to you, love the journey and have a fearless mentality when challenges arise, we’ll surpass our imagination. Leaving a fingerprint on our legacy. That’s Stallion Pride.
6A Southwest Region
2021-22 Record: 25-5 overall, 10-0 region (6A state champions)
Coach: Rachel Matakas (15th season as Valley Vista coach)
Top Returnees: PG Olivia Arvallo, Sr., 5-6 (11 ppg, 3.1 apg, 2.3 spg); PF Hannah Young, Sr., 6-0 (7.8 ppg, 6 rpg).
How many years have you coached girls basketball? High school 27 years
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Willingness to learn and grow each day.
What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Getting game experience and growth each game.
Who are your team leaders? Olivia Arvallo, Joclyn Chavez, Emma Dasovich
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Iza Juarez, freshman Deja Strong and Emma Dasovich (a junior who moved in from Minnesota).
What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? Compete on every possession.
5A Northwest Region
2021-22 Record: 16-7 overall, 9-0 region (5A first round)
Coach: Brandon Scholtz (ninth year as Willow Canyon head coach)
Top Returnees: G Mia Martinez, Sr. 5-6 (7.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.8 spg), PG Lelani Soto, Sr., 5-2 (8.8 ppg, 4.5 spg. 2.7 apg)
How many years have you coached girls basketball? This is my ninth season as the head coach at Willow Canyon
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? The team this year has a lot of depth, we can be very comfortable playing 9-10 girls a night without seeing a drop off as we rotate in and out.
What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Continue to build chemistry on the court with each other, a lot of new pieces will be in the rotation this season so continue to build that chemistry everyday.
Who are your team leaders? Mia Martinez is a four-year varsity starter. She knows the system inside and out, great positive leader for the team and someone who can encourage the group every day. Leilani Soto, our other captain, made a huge jump last year as a player and a leader for us and has been the lead by example player all off season. She works hard every day and has a high level of respect from the whole team.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? We have several players this year who will be asked to play key roles for us. Senior guard Mariah Preston is new to us this year and brings a lot of varsity experience and toughness, very strong on both sides of the court. Freshman guard Sarah Karnitz will be asked to step into a big offensive role for us this year and brings an exciting prospect to build on. Junior forward Launa Rogers is really strong on the boards and on the defensive side of the ball, great communicator on the court to lead our defensive rotations. Sophomore guard Kandice O’Connell will be a spark off the bench for us bringing energy, quickness, and some offensive firepower.
What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? This team knows we can’t waste any time we have together on the court. At practice/scrimmages/games/tournaments make every minute of time together count. The girls understand that there are a lot of new parts to this season; New region, addition of the shot clock, a lot of new rotational players so they understand the importance of never wasting a rep that we have together. We need to stay healthy and be able to get to the 50/50 balls as we expect a lot of closely contested games all season long. This is a really good group of girls who have been working hard all off season to be able to make this season count, so we are all excited for this season to get underway.