Girls’ basketball players push through injuries and strong competition

February 25, 2019 — by Anna Novoselov

Multiple injuries and strong competition in the De Anza League have prevented the girls’ basketball team from winning as many games as they did last year in the lower El Camino League. However, they have pushed through the challenges and became a stronger team as a result.

“This season is about persistence,” senior small forward Kitty Huang said. “Even though we had injuries and were missing players, we still played through and gave the best effort we got.”

The team lost 51-40 to Palo Alto on Feb. 11, beat Mountain View 42-37 on Feb. 8, lost to Lost Gatos 55-48 on Feb. 5 and won 50-39 against Santa Clara on Feb. 1.

As of Feb. 12, the Falcons were 4-8 in league and 13-11 overall.

They will likely play their first CCS game on Feb. 16, but as of Feb. 12, the Falcons are still unsure of who their opponent will be.

Many of the starters and top scorers — including sophomore point guard Jane Loo, junior shooting guard Anika Prasad and senior post Kirstin Kruka — sustained injuries that kept them on the bench cheering on their teammates rather than playing in games for much of the year. Consequently, many other players have had to fill in their positions and play more than they would have otherwise.

While Prasad was able to play at the end of the league season, Kruka is still recovering. Loo and sophomore shooting guard Kaitlyn Yu (who was only recently injured) sat out for the Feb. 11 game against Palo Alto, but will play during CCS.

Huang said that the girls were nervous in their first three league games because of the new lineup and had difficulty scoring without their top players.

Last year, the team won almost every game in the El Camino league by a large margin and sailed to the league championship. But this year, the girls were challenged — both mentally and physically — by the strong competition in the De Anza league.

Coach Danny Wallace said that in the De Anza League, “every game is a good matchup,” which helps the team prepare for CCS and gain experience playing at a higher level. Wilcox and Palo Alto, for instance, are ranked in the top 100 in California.

Wallace said that although the season has been rough, the girls remain strong competitors and dedicated to the sport. During practice, injured players watch on the sidelines in order to not fall behind and during games, and players are willing to step off the bench and assume a leadership role on the court.

Wallace hopes that next season players are able to stay healthy and prevent serious injuries.

Yu is one of the players who filled in for the injured players. Although the new role was difficult for her, she said that playing more has helped her and other players improve their basketball skills and become confident players.

“Everyone being able to touch the ball and get on the court was good for the team,” she said.

Yu hopes that the girls improve their ball handling, develop higher basketball IQs and bond more in order to grow as a team.   

Over the course of the season, the players created strong friendships through grueling practices, tough losses and joyful victories. Team bonding, especially at the West Coast Jamboree tournament in Concord, helped the girls bond as a team and learn to trust each other.

“Everyone on the team genuinely supports and encourages each other to get better as a team, and we give each other advice as we see fit,” Huang said.

While the team will lose seniors Rachel Bakke, Huang, Kruka and Zahabi to graduation, many strong underclassmen such as Loo, sophomore point guard Iris Lee, sophomore post Bereket Bailey and freshman post Amarangana Tyagi will remain as the nucleus of the team.

“I hope they can keep on playing hard like they’ve been doing,” Huang said. “They definitely have a chance of winning league champs next year if they have their full team with no injuries.”

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