PREP BASKETBALL: After tough non-league slate, Lady Miners ready for FVL play
The Lady Miners have certainly tested themselves through the first seven weeks of the 2019-20 season.
Across 18 non-league bouts, Nevada Union’s girls basketball team (10-8) has faced off with 13 teams which currently have a .500 record or better. They won six of those 13 contests, and are 4-1 against teams with a sub .500 mark.
“Even though I don’t have any freshmen or sophomores (on the roster) this year, we’re still kind of young when it comes to varsity playing experience, so it took us a little while,” said NU head coach Jenn Krill, now in her fifth season at the helm of the varsity team. “Emerson (Dunbar), Reese (Wheeler) and Aijah (King) played a lot for me last year, and Kendall (Hughes) played a little, but nobody else. So, it kind of took us a little bit to get used to the speed of the game, it’s a different level. But, we’ve put some wins together, started playing well. We’ve played hard all year, but now we’re finally starting to piece it together a little bit.”
Krill and the Lady Miners are coming off a 2018-19 season in which they went 20-12, finished second in Foothill Valley League play and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals. This year, they have their sights set on making a run at the league title.
“If we can keep playing hard every night and put it together, we can win our league and make a playoff push. I don’t want to say anything beyond that, because I like to take it one game at a time, but if we stay focused in league, we can have a really strong showing.”
The road to the FVL banner will likely go through Placer, which is the defending league champ and is off to a 12-2 start this season.
“(Placer) is going to be our toughest competition for sure,” said Krill. “I feel like we match up well with them, and I think no one from last year is happy about how those two games ended. We should probably give them a tough game this year. Our league is going to be better. Lincoln is better, other teams are better, but I think we will be ready to go.”
Placer handed NU its only losses in league play last season, and topped the Lady Miners, 65-57, in tourney play earlier this season.
The Lady Miners are led by a potent post duo in Dunbar and Hughes, as well as a pair of gritty guards in King and Wheeler.
“Emerson and Kendall are my two main post players this season and they are both averaging double-doubles,” said Krill. “They clean up everything on the glass.”
Dunbar was an All-FVL selection a season ago as a junior, and has scored 20-plus points in multiple games this season.
King, who was an All-FVL selection a season ago as a sophomore, and Wheeler, a senior, are seasoned guards who bring experience to NU’s back court.
“Aijah is running our offense and doing a really good job,” said Krill. “Reese is one of those players that goes under the radar. She never has a big stat line, but she plays a ton of minutes for me because she does everything. When we need someone to bring the ball up the court when it’s getting a little frantic, she’s the one that brings it up. When we need someone to cover a certain player on the other team, it’s Reese.”
The Lady Miners have also seen strong guard play from junior Kia Costanza, who hit eight 3-pointers in a single game earlier this season. Fellow guards Mia Hallenbeck and Aubrey Looney give NU depth off the bench.
“We can go eight and nine deep in some games and still stay strong,” said Krill. “We’re more diversified with our guards and I can’t wait ’til a few of them put it together on the same night.”
The Lady Miners wrapped up the non-league portion of the season Monday night when they hosted the Sacramento Dragons in a bout between teams headed by former Lady Miners players.
The Dragons are coached by Nevada Union grad Michele Massari who helped the Lady Miner’s win a Sac-Joaquin Section championship in 1995.
Krill is a 1990 Nevada Union graduate who helped the Lady Miners win a pair of Sac-Joaquin Section titles (1989, 1990).
“I’ve known Michele since we were kids,” said Krill. “She’s a few years younger than me, but we’ve known each other forever. We stay in touch and it’s always fun to coach against her. She’s a great coach. She’s won six Section championships… It’s a lot of fun, and her kids always play hard.”
Craig Strohm, who coached both Krill and Massari during their high school playing days, was on hand for the game.
“I wouldn’t miss this for anything, I’d crawl here to watch these two former players coach,” said Strohm, who led the Lady Miners to five Sac-Joaquin Section titles and has been enshrined in the Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame. “I just adore and love them both. And, I’m glad they are still carrying the torch, and having fun.
“This place of course brings back so many memories. So nostalgic. But to see them, I feel mostly pride. I flash back to all the fun I had and the great, great memories, and I’m so happy that they are having so much fun. (Coaching) is so rewarding in the long run. It’s difficult and a challenge, but those girls got it in their blood. They’re warriors themselves and I love watching them coach, because they coach like warriors.”
It was Massari and the Dragons that prevailed Monday night in NU’s West Gym, topping the Lady Miners, 56-36.
NU trailed 18-7 after one quarter and went into half down, 28-18. The Lady Miners cut the deficit down to eight points late in the third quarter, but the Dragons fired off 10 straight points to end the third and start the fourth, putting the game out of reach for NU.
Leading the Lady Miners was Dunbar with 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. King added 11 points, and Hughes chipped in 10 points.
Sacramento (5-8) was led by Heaven Samayoa-Mathis, who tallied a game-high 16 points. Senia Moore followed with 14 points.
Massari is now 4-1 as a coach against NU, including a pair of playoff wins.
The Lady Miners get the rest of the week off from game play, and get back at it Jan. 15 when they host Placer in the West Gym, also known as the “House of Pain.”
UPGRADES TO THE HOUSE OF PAIN
The “House of Pain” has undergone several renovations in recent years.
“It’s been one step at a time,” said Krill, who moved the Lady Miners’ games back into West Gym several seasons ago and has spearheaded the improvements. “We’ve redone the signs, we painted the gym, got a new scorers’ table, new chairs, the bleachers look good and the school got together the money to redo the floors. It looks good. It’s awesome.”
JV Lady Miners down Dragons
Nevada Union’s junior varsity squad improved to 11-5 overall after powering past Sacramento, 56-33, Monday night.
Leading the Lady Miners was Alyssa Watkins with 15 points. Dani Tagg added 14 points and was a standout on defense. Laila Ghosheh followed with 10 points, and Ellery Beaudette chipped in nine points.
The JV Lady Miners open league play against Placer Jan. 15.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4232.
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