PREP BASKETBALL: Lady Miners ready to dig into league play
Their non-league schedule was tough. It was supposed to be. It was meant to test them and prepare them.
After 18 games played in a little more than a month, the Lady Miners said their rigorous non-league slate has them ready for what lies ahead in league play.
“I’m happy with the fact that we had a tougher preseason than we’ve had in the past,” said Nevada Union girls varsity basketball coach Jenn Krill. “There was a lot of games in there that I feel really set us up well for league.”
With a win over a quality Sheldon squad Thursday night, the Lady Miners closed its non-league schedule with a 10-8 record, getting it done with defense and grit down the stretch.
“We battle. That’s one of our best strengths,” senior guard Molly Burton said. “A lot of times we will finish the first half not playing very well, and we’ll go into the locker room, talk it out, make a game plan and go out and battle. And, most of the time, come out with a win.”
The Lady Miners now turn their attention to Foothill Valley League play, which tips off at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Placer.
“I think we’re more balanced right now than we’ve been,” said Krill. “That’s what it’s going to take for us to win league this year. It’s going to take a full team effort. We can’t just rely on our bigs, we need good guard play too.”
In addition to being more balanced, Krill likes what she’s seeing from her team on the defensive end.
“I feel like our defense has really improved this year,” said Krill. “That was something we really wanted to focus on. It’s funny because I felt like we could score in the past and couldn’t defend, and now we can defend and sometimes it feels like there’s a lid on the bucket. But, that’s something we’re a lot better at.”
Through the first 18 games of the season, the Lady Miners are averaging 51.6 points per game and allowing 47.5.
Senior post player and four-year varsity player Meadow Aragon has noticed something else about this year’s squad that has her optimistic heading into league play.
“We’re able to close tough games,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of trouble with that in the past. But this team has done a good job of closing, hustling when we need to and putting points on the board when we need to.”
After spending the last 12 seasons in the Sierra Foothill League, winning championships in 2013 and 2014, the Lady Miners move into the FVL along with Lincoln, Placer, Ponderosa, Oakmont and Rio Linda. Lincoln is off to a strong start at 12-5. Ponderosa has also found success in non-league play, going 9-5 so far. Placer is above .500 at 10-7. Oakmont has battled its way to a 6-10 record. And, Rio Linda has a 5-11 mark so far.
“Our goal is to win the league,” said Krill. “Starting on the road at Placer, we couldn’t have a harder way to start league. It’s a tough place to play, tough crowd … You got to be up for that game.”
As for the keys to reaching their goal of a league championship, Krill said “we’re going to have to take care of business. We’re going to have to play well. It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have to take care of the basketball. That can be our Achilles Heel. We don’t do a very good job of that sometimes. But, if we can take care of the basketball better that will help us take care of business.”
MEET THE LADY MINERS
Leading the Lady Miners is Aragon, a talented forward who is averaging around 22 points per game and 14 rebounds.
“(Aragon) has really matured defensively and really matured as a vocal leader,” Krill said.
Aragon is committed to attend and play basketball at Western Oregon University in the fall.
Aragon is joined in the post by junior Emerson Dunbar, who continues to improve in her second season with the varsity squad.
“(Dunbar) and Meadow are starting to click with each other,” said Krill. “You can see they have a better connection on the court and that’s a big thing for both of them.”
The Lady Miners also boast a strong group of guards which includes Burton, Aijah King, Reese Wheeler, Leah Ellis and Maddy Zucca.
Burton is a strong defender who also brings the ability to score from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Molly is one of those players for us who can knock down the 3 and shes not shy about it,” said Krill. “Her being that threat is key for us. And, she’s really good defensively. She gets up and down the floor and makes layups for us in transition, and that helps us a ton.”
King, a sophomore guard, is a skilled ball handler and has proven the varsity stage isn’t too big.
“She’s such a good ball handler and she sees the floor so well,” said Krill. “When she’s on our bigs get some great looks and she kicks to the wing well.”
Ellis adds another offensive weapon for the Lady Miners, and both Wheeler and Zucca have been standouts on the defensive end of the court.
“I love seeing the progression of this team and how we’re learning to work together,” Burton said. “We have been working hard in practice and we can definitely see that in games. We’re playing much better as a team and that makes it more fun.”
HOUSE OF PAIN
The Lady Miners play in Nevada Union’s West Gym, a place dubbed “The House of Pain,” and so far this season it has not been hospitable to visiting opponents. Nevada Union is 5-1 on their home court, including wins over quality teams such as Cosumnes Oaks (11-5), Rocklin (9-9), Granite Bay (10-5) and Sheldon (7-5).
“I love that place because a little crowd still sounds like a decent crowd. If you get a good-size crowd, it sounds awesome in there,” Krill said. “And, I think we’re getting our own little momentum in there, and anytime you have that home court advantage it always helps.”
A LITTLE HISTORY
The Lady Miners have made the playoffs the past two seasons, but fell in the first round both times. The last time an NU girls basketball team won a league title was the 2014 season when they claimed the SFL championship. The Lady Miners have won five Sac-Joaquin Section titles (1989, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1999) in school history. Krill, a 1990 NU graduate, was a player on the 1989 and 1990 section title teams.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
As far as experts go, The Union’s “experts” have not exactly lived up to the billing so far this season.