Freshman teams grow in ’05-’06 |

Freshman teams grow in ’05-’06

Most prep basketball coaches will say that the most important goal for a freshman team is to develop talent and acclimate the players into the demands of high school basketball. Often, growth is more of a priority than overall records and statistics.

And according to the four western Nevada County freshmen coaches, their teams all finished the season playing better basketball in February than they did in November.

Bear River girls

At the beginning of the Bear River freshman girls basketball season, the team saw five freshmen move up to play on the junior varsity team – creating some doubt in the minds of those remaining on the freshmen team.

But by season’s end, the team went 15-7 overall, with an undefeated 8-0 Pioneer Valley League season.

Every player saw court time in all games, barring injury or illness, with each player scoring in at least half of the league games.

The leading scorers were Taylor Spencer and Catey Cramer with more than 100 points. Chloe Lyon and Caitlin Billingham scored 50 points each during the league season.

“The freshman team improved tremendously from start to finish and I look forward to watching the continuing success of each player,” Bear River coach Meghan Burt said.

Nevada Union girls

Kate Dudley, the Nevada Union freshman girls coach, had a roster of 15 players with three managers playing in practice as well. Having such a large team certainly made the job of merging talent and personalities somewhat challenging.

While the Miners finished with a 17-10 overall record, going 7-7 in the Metro League, Dudley said the best is still yet to come from her players as they realize the amount of potential they possess.

Three players – Alexis Moser, Mariah Orellana and Hayden Fleenor – all averaged around 10 points per game with Elizabeth Gassmann leading the team in rebounding.

At one point early in the season, Gassmann was pulling down 18 boards a game.

Taking on the majority of ball handling duties were Fleenor, Moser and Michelle Horstman, with the team heavy in post players rather than guards.

Defensively, Emily Bearden, Michelle Reiswig and Katie Litchfield were bright spots for the Miners, with Fleenor and Moser leading the team in steals. The Miners finished the season with a positive steals to turnover ratio.

“There wasn’t one player on the team that at some point didn’t do something great for the team,” Dudley said.

Bear River boys

The Bear River boys freshman basketball team finished the season on a high note, beating Colfax on the road 58-40 after beginning the second half deadlocked at 24 points. With the win, the Bruins posted a 13-11 overall record, while going 7-7 in the PVL.

“Anytime you have a winning season with the freshmen, you feel good,” Bear River coach Dick Werntz said.

After beginning the season with two freshmen moving up to the junior varsity team, the freshmen also lost two key players – James Lucas and Danny DeLavinga – to injuries.

Despite the early setbacks, the team was 6-4 during its nonleague schedule, but really hit its stride the final four weeks of the season.

Tanner Mathias and Glen Schell led the team in scoring with Schell scoring inside and outside from the small forward position. Mathias, quarterback of the freshman football team, hadn’t played basketball in a few years, but Werntz convinced him to come out for the basketball team to work on his footwork. Werntz said he turned into a pretty good player by the end of the season.

Jason Varni did most of the dirty work on the boards, coming up with 16 rebounds against Mira Loma while becoming known as one of the Bruins’ key defensive players. Adding strength to the Bruins’ defense was David Baress, who led the team in steals.

Nevada Union boys

The story of the season for the Nevada Union boys freshman team was close games. In all, the Miners lost 11 games by eight points or less with coach Gene Smith saying there were only two or three games all season that that his team didn’t have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.

“I thought the kids really competed well throughout the year,” Smith said. “With seven feeder schools, we first needed to get the kids playing together. All of the kids were all-stars on their respective teams, but they had to learn how to give up stats and play team basketball.”

Nevada Union finished the season with a 12-15 overall record, after finishing fourth in the Metro at 5-9.

Perhaps one of the high points of the season was taking the eventual league champions in Granite Bay to overtime on the road. The Miners ended up losing 54-53 and the Grizzlies went undefeated in league play.

Another standout game was a 64-61 overtime win against Placer at the San Juan Tournament.

Kennen Morris led the team with 12.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game with Marc Hopkinson and Dustin Sutton averaging 7.5 and 7.7 points, respectively.

Tyler Fredrick and Adam Kremple stood out for their defensive efforts as did Garrett Smittle and Sean Balser in defensive rebounding.

Smith also praised the play of Tyler Salcedo and Hopkinson – his point guards.


To contact sportswriter Stacy Hicklin, e-mail or call 477-4244.

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