Girls’ basketball faces tough losses, CCS prospects unlikely

January 31, 2023 — by Christina Chang, Meher Bhatnagar and Ariel Zhou
Photo by Natalie Chua
Co-captains junior Zinneerah Ahmed and senior Tanya Ghai command the court during the Lynbrook game.

The team attributes their losses to a ‘plague of injuries.’

This season, the girls’ basketball team has seen varsity and JV merge due to the loss of four seniors early in the season and the departures of JV coaches Ellyson Matsui and Vernon Wang, who left for personal reasons mid-season. Both teams are now led by head coach Josh Rivera and assistant coach Jaston Rivera.

The starting lineups change on the regular, though the most recent lineup has consisted of senior point guard Tanya Ghai, junior guard Zinneerah Ahmed, sophomore guard Urvi Iyer and sophomore forwards Riley Adler and Saira Ramakrishnan. 

In the De Anza League, the Falcons have a 1-6 league record, as of Jan. 27. The team lost 63-44 against Monta Vista on Jan. 26; lost 51-41 against Lynbrook on Jan. 19; lost 60-34 against Los Gatos on Jan. 17; lost 48-44 against Leland on Jan. 14; won 45-42 against Homestead on Jan. 12; lost 54-36 against Palo Alto on Jan. 10; and lost 54-42 against Homestead on Jan. 5. Some of the upcoming league games include Palo Alto, Homestead, Los Gatos, Lynbrook and Los Altos. 

To make CCS, a team must have a “500 record”: to win half their games in either preseason or league season. Alternatively, they’d need notable victories. The Falcons do not meet this requirement “on paper,” but head coach Rivera said he hopes their notable win against Homestead and potential future victories will allow them to qualify for postseason play.

Rivera said their victory against Homestead was due to everyone being present.

“When the whole team is there, I think we always have a fighting chance,” Rivera said. “When we move the ball, making hard cuts and making plays for each other, we show that we can keep up with practically any team.”

He attributed their losses to a “plague of injuries,” as “the majority of the team has been hurt in some capacity,” whether it be a concussion or injuries involving the ankle, quad, ligament, foot and arm.

“For us, if someone is hurt, we have to have the mentality of ‘who else is ready? Who else is holding that role?’” Rivera said. “That’s been the theme this season: We’ve asked these players to essentially do more with the short time they’ve had here in the program.”

While some athletes were able to play through their injuries, Rivera said he also tries to make sure they’re resting to prevent future long-term problems.

For example, Iyer has a lingering ankle injury, but has been good about both rehabbing on her own and being available to play, according to Rivera. Sophomore guard Emily Rich has also been out on concussion protocol for over a month.

“When you get injured, it takes a bit out of you and it’s difficult to get back into the momentum of playing basketball,” Rivera said. “Your wind is definitely different; your breathing is very different. And when you’re in a game and in that environment, that takes some adjustment as well.”

Due to injuries, along with their small 8-person varsity roster, the team has had a rough time with closing out games, Rivera said. While the Falcons often keep up with opposing teams initially, players often get tired as the games progress, resulting in widening score gaps.

“Sometimes we do fall short — it has translated to some losses, but we’ve seen quite a bit of improvement,” Rivera said. “Since October, I can say each player has definitely improved throughout the season.”

To further improve for future games, he emphasized consistency. 

“We’ve had a lot of good practices as of late and we’re trying to stack those,” Rivera said. “It’s been a long season, but we try to make sure everyone can be available to play in games and contribute.” 

He also said the team — not just players on the court, but also those on the bench — could do better in terms of providing energy at practices and games. The Falcons often have “spurts” of energy which “get sapped away” as athletes lose focus, Rivera said.

Rivera described the team’s playing style as “a little bit more free.” The team has some set plays, but has a lot of motion offense. Depending on the team they’re matched up against, they’d play “five out” on offense with all athletes spread out and outside the paint to emphasize ball movement.

The coaches have also been hosting combined practices. JV and varsity are a bit staggered; while both practice together for the majority of practice, JV often starts a bit earlier and varsity ends later to allot some time to focus on team-specific improvement. 

The combination of JV and varsity has had both benefits and drawbacks. The positive has been that the team has gotten closer, and has gotten acquainted with the coaches’ coaching styles.

However, co-captain Ghai said it has also been a challenge. As the only senior on the team, she’s felt an immense amount of pressure to lead the rest of the team. 

“It’s been hard working with the new JV players, since they’re still adjusting to the team and we’re still adjusting to them,” Ghai said. 

Co-captain Ahmed said Ghai has put a lot of work into her role as captain.

“Tanya has really stepped into her role and we have really tried to set an example for the younger girls to listen and guide them into playing varsity,” Ahmed said.

With senior night less than a month away on Feb. 14, Ahmed has reached out to the Toga Tech commission to create an Instagram reel highlighting key moments in Ghai’s basketball career and showcasing the display they created for senior night.

“We haven’t decided on the theme yet, but it will be extravagant and very personalized since she is our only senior,” Ahmed said. “I really want her to feel special since this is her last year with us and she has made such amazing contributions to the team.”

And while CCS prospects are uncertain, Rivera said he’s proud of the athletes’ development over the season.

“A lot of these girls have been tested quite a bit as far as outside noise and internal team situations of the wear and tear of the months-long season, but I don’t think any of them have ever given up,” Rivera said. “They show up, they try to work out and they try to put their best foot forward.”

4 views this week