PREP BASKETBALL: After a strong first half, Lady Bruins turn attention to league play | TheUnion.com

PREP BASKETBALL: After a strong first half, Lady Bruins turn attention to league play

With a smothering defense and a strong core of senior leaders, the 2017-18 cast of Lady Bruins have been a force to be reckoned with during the first half of the prep basketball season.

Through the first 15 games, the Lady Bruins have 12 wins, have earned three tournament championships and are outscoring opponents by more than 16 points on average.

Second year head coach Randy Billingsley said he's happy with what he's seen so far, but knows it will be a battle every night when Pioneer Valley League play tips off Friday.

"As is typical in league basketball, everybody is going to bring it," he said. "We're definitely in the hunt and I think we can play with any team in the league, but we're not going to surprise anybody at 12-3."

STIFF COMPETITION

The Lady Bruins open PVL play Friday at home against Foothill, which is led by senior Makaila Sanders (27.7 points per game) and is off to a 14-2 start this season. The Lady Mustangs, who are currently No. 2 in the Sac-Joaquin Section's Division IV rankings according to MaxPreps.com, will be just one of many challenges facing the Lady Bruins in league play this season as all six PVL teams are .500 or better.

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Colfax, which is led by head coach Rich Simpton, is off to a blistering start at 15-1 overall. The Lady Falcons are led on the court by the powerful duo of Grace Bliss (16.6 points per game, 9.6 rebounds) and Caleigh McClenahan (12.3 points per game, 12.1 rebounds).

Last year's league champ, Placer, is 9-6 overall and is led by seniors Mollie Brogdon, Madison Mohar and Gwen Conlee. The Hillgals have big wins over Rocklin and Nevada Union this season.

Lincoln, led by junior guard Kalyna Kim's 16.7 points per game, is at 9-7 overall.

Center is the only PVL team not above .500, sitting at 8-8 overall. The Lady Cougars still pack a punch though and have several talented players including Meylene Hughes' (15.9 points per game).

SENIOR LADEN LADY BRUINS

This season's Lady Bruins are led by an experienced starting five that includes seniors Kylee Dresbach-Hill, Katelyn Meylor, Kayla Toft, Mallory Rath and Karinne McDonald.

Rath, a second year varsity starter, said this year's squad is extremely close on and off the court.

"We're goofy," said Rath, who is averaging 11.9 points per game and 14.2 rebounds. "But, when it comes to game time we get serious. We are a family, we play as a family and we like to be together on and off the court."

Rath is just one of three Lady Bruins that average more than 10 points per game this season.

Meylor, a feisty guard now in her third year on varsity, leads the team in points (15.5 per game) and steals (5.5 per game).

"Meylor is going to put numbers up," Billingsley said. "She's always going to a be a scorer for us. She's a slasher and can hit the 3."

The third double-digit scorer for Bear River is point guard Dresbach-Hill, who does a little bit of everything on the floor.

"Dresbach-Hill will be our difference maker this year," Billingsley said. "I truly think we will go as she goes."

The third year varsity player is averaging 10.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.6 steals.

"I expect us to give our full effort and make what we can of the season," Dresbach-Hill said. "We're small, but we're fast and really hard workers. I think we can get pretty far with that."

Other key contributors for Bear River include Toft, McDonald and sophomore guard Gabi Corralejo.

Toft, who is the team's smallest player, is a terror on defense as well as a surprisingly good rebounder. In addition to averaging 5.4 points per game, she grabs three steals per game and pulls down 4.1 rebounds.

"Defensively she is just a beast," Billingsley said of Toft. "She is our best defensive player by far."

McDonald, a four-year varsity player, adds another rebounding force in the paint for the Lady Bruins. And, Corralejo is a talented guard who can handle the ball and score off the bench.

APPLYING PRESSURE

What has stood out most about the Lady Bruins this season is their presence defensively. Through 15 games, Bear River is holding teams to just 41.9 points per game this season.

"I like that we play hard for four quarters," Billingsley said of his team. "I like the fact that we continue to put ball pressure on, play well defensively and play the tempo we want to play. We have been good at dictating how fast we want to play."

Maylor added that while the Bruins are strong defensively, they can also get the job done on the offensive end of the court.

"We're a strong team defensively, but it's our scoring that teams should look out for," she said. "Teams should be ready to run with us, because we never stop trying and we go up tempo the entire game.

The Lady Bruins are averaging 58.3 points per game.

"We've all grown together and become more of a unit and that has been a great experience," McDonald said. "It's exciting to see the difference from my freshmen year to this year."

The Lady Bruins tip off PVL play at 7 p.m. Friday against Foothill at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.