Lady Bruins to make first bid in new league
With all of the fun and frolic of the preseason a distant memory, the Bear River girls basketball team can get down to business.
The Lady Bruins, which repeated as champions of the Elite 8 Tournament in Reno and chalked up wins over arch-rivals Nevada Union and Placer (Auburn) during the preseason, will take their first step toward the inaugural Pioneer Valley League crown when league play tips off at Lincoln 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
3I think we1re a lot more balanced. Last year we were a better defensive team, but we1ve improved offensively,² Bear River head coach Duwaine Ganskie said. 3I don1t think we1re any different than we were in the preseason last year, but you rarely find out how hungry your team is until they get closer to the playoffs. That1s when it counts.²
It would be easier to list the number of players on this year1s squad who haven1t seen the pressure of big time games.
Bear River, which has played in the last two Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship games at Arco Arena, returns four starters and nine varsity letter winners from last year1s CIF NorCal State Championship semi-finalists.
Christina Guerland (5-foot-4), a senior, battled it out with four-year letter winner Amy Pistone (5-6) for the point guard job and came out on top.3She1s done a great job of pushing the ball up and getting our running game going. And she1s really tough on defense,² Ganskie said.
Despite the shakeup, Pistone will still see big minutes, Ganskie said.
3She brings a lot of depth to us at the point. She started two years in a row at Arco and she really knows how to calm things down in crunch time,² he said.
Cassie Smith (5-8), Bear River1s resident defensive stopper, has started at guard, forward and center this year.
3The three games she put together up at Reno were as good as she1s ever had. She defended well, was in double figures in scoring every game and was named most valuable player. For a tournament that big, that1s a pretty big deal,² Ganskie said of third-year, letter-winning senior.
Ganskie said if Smith is the Lady Bruins1 best defender, junior guard Chelsea Haverty (5-10) is close behind.
3She1s a little quicker so she can guard the really athletic point guards. So that1s been a really nice addition for us defensively,² he said.
Meghan Noud (6-0), also on her third varsity campaign, can score from anywhere on the floor.
3She1s got a great inside-outside game. She can hit the three, take it to the basket and she can post up,² Ganskie said of the senior small forward. 3She1s scoring right around 18 points a game, so she1s picked right up where she left off after last year1s playoffs. She wants the ball and you like to see that kind of mentality.²
Ganskie lost 2002 Sierra Foothill League most valuable player, center Briana Thomas to graduation, but he1s got 5-foot, 10-inch senior Nicole Scott to fill that presence in the post.
3She1s been (biding) her time playing behind Bri, but this is her year,² Ganskie said. 3She1s done a great job with her offensive game. She has a beautiful 10-15 foot jumper and that1s something we didn1t have our of our post game last year.²
Maya Bryant (5-8) will also see major minutes at the guard and forward positions.
3We just can1t keep her out of the lineup. She might be the most consistent player we1ve had in the last two tournaments,² Ganskie said. 3She1s scored in double figures five straight games coming off the bench and that1s quite an accomplishment.²
Senior forward Liz Elders (5-10), junior center Kayla Smith (5-11) and sophomore wing Julie Fry (5-9) will also push for playing time.
The PVL is chock full of unknowns for Ganskie.
While he admits he knows little about teams like Lincoln, Mesa Verde (Citrus Heights) and Sacramento1s Mira Loma and Johnson West, he knows plenty about the remaining two teams.
Oakmont, which made the move to the PVL from the SFL with Bear River this season, and perennial power and neighborhood rival, Colfax will also challenge for the league crown.
3Colfax beat us in the finals of the Del Oro tournament, so we know they1re for real. I was really impressed by them,² he said.
No. Player Year Ht. Pos.
10 Cassie Smith Sr. 5-8 G
11 Chelsea Haverty Jr. 5-10 G
12 Kayla Smith Jr. 5-11 C
14 Amy Pistone Sr. 5-6 G
20 Julie Fry So. 5-9 F
21 Christina Guerland Sr. 5-4 G
22 Liz Elders Sr. 5-10 F
23 Maya Bryant Sr. 5-8 G
24 Nicole Scott Sr. 5-10 C
30 Meaghan Noud Sr. 6-0 F
33 Emily Collins Sr. 5-10 F
1/8 7:30 p.m. @Lincoln**
1/10 7:30 p.m. @Mira Loma**
1/15 7:30 p.m. West Campus**
1/17 7 p.m. Mesa Verde**
1/24 7:30 p.m. @Colfax**
1/28 7:30 p.m. Oakmont**
1/30 7:30 p.m. Lincoln**
2/4 7:30 p.m. Mira Loma**
2/6 7:30 p.m. @West Campus**
2/8 TBA @Sac Challenge*
2/11 7:30 p.m. @Mesa Verde**
2/15 7 p.m. @Kennedy*
2/18 7:30 p.m. Colfax**
2/20 7:30 p.m. @Oakmont**
** denotes conference game
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Hank Sowell’s introduction to the game of golf came early as a set of clubs was among the gifts he received on his very first birthday.