Girls’ basketball adjusts work ethic and play style under new head coach 

December 11, 2023 — by Emma Fung
Photo by Bryan Zhao
Junior point guard Urvi Iyer prepares to take a shot during a team practice game.
Through intensive training and fresh strategic approaches, the team aims to make it far in CCS this year in the El Camino League.

The crowd cheered in the gym on Nov. 21 as point guard Urvi Iyer dribbled toward the hoop, swerving through the barricade of players from Andrew Hill. With two minutes left, Iyer smoothly sank a 3-pointer in an attempt to comeback. It was the last successful 3-pointer of the game, but it was not enough. The game ultimately ended in a 47-45 loss for the Falcons, but the heated late-game competition was something they could build on. 

After a series of preseason games consisting of a 50-45 loss away to Live Oak on Dec. 7, a 55-50 loss at home to Lincoln on Dec. 2 and a 62-31 home win against Mt. Pleasant, the team still is feeling out its strengths and weaknesses for their upcoming league season that starts Jan. 3. 

With the arrival of new head coach Manny Steffens, the team has gone through numerous changes. According to players, Steffens, a well-known Redwood Middle School media arts teacher whose freshman daughter Payton plays on the team, is one of the most encouraging coaches they have ever had, creating an environment that supports a constant positive outlook during practices and games.

“Even when we’re doing conditioning, Coach Steffens has us cheer for everyone doing the exercises,” said Iyer, a junior who is one of the team’s captains, and averages around 23.5 points per game as the team’s highest scorer. “He always fosters a good attitude, whether or not we lose.” 

Additionally, senior co-captain Zineerah Ahmed said that Steffens coordinates all his plays so that all players on the court have a role, off the ball and on the ball, to emphasize to the members that every one of them has a purpose on the team. 

As for the team, the Falcons have been training hard on both offense and defense, sharpening their technical skills while incorporating cardio and strength training into their practices. One new offense tactic they have been practicing is driving the ball and kicking it out, commonly known as a “motion.” Since the team’s repertoire focuses on mainly three-pointers — which is a low-percentage shot — they are trying to fix their habits by taking closer shots rather than constant far shots.

“We are running drills to instill habits of driving and then kicking out to shoot, or just driving in general instead of taking three-point shots all the time,” Iyer said.

The team is set to play away to Independence on Dec. 12, home to Prospect on Dec. 14, home to Lynbrook on Dec. 16, away at Del Mar on Dec. 21 and away to Mt. Eden on Dec. 27. With all the hard work and dedication that the girls have been putting into preseason, the team has hopes to have a strong season and ultimately make it to CCS.

“I really hope that this team can reach the potential that it has,” Coach Steffens said. “I’m confident that we can get there because all the players have such high character and a strong work ethic.” 

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