The San Lorenzo Valley High girls’ basketball team has tried to shake off the stigma of being an easy win for opposing teams.
The Cougars turned some heads during the abbreviated 2021 spring season by winning the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League “B” Division championship.
SLV coach Adam Johnson said they want to continue building off of their title run and hopefully go beyond that as they head into the second half of this season.
“I don’t want to put a number on how many wins we get or what those expectations are, but just changing the culture and changing what SLV basketball is, ultimately,” he said.
Senior Abby Lahey and the Cougars fought until the final whistle in a 42-30 loss to Alvarez High on Tuesday at the Lady Shark Shootout at St. Francis High in Watsonville.
Johnson said that Lahey provides the spark they need whether it’s at practice or during a game, even if they’re trailing by 19 points like they were against the Eagles.
“Her energy is infectious,” Johnson said.
Lahey, a forward/center, has an average of 7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this season. She got into foul trouble early Tuesday and the Cougars felt the effects with two key players out for the game.
Junior forward Bella Reynolds and sophomore guard Hannah Morley have both been sidelined with injuries.
“But besides that, we’re doing a really good job,” Lahey said.
Morley is an up-and-coming star on this year’s varsity squad. She has an average of 7.9 points, 4.4 steals, 3.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game this season.
Morley put in a 12-point performance to help SLV win its season opener against St. Francis on Nov. 22. Reynolds is scoring 7.4 points and hauling in a team-best 4.4 rebounds per game this season.
The Cougars might be currently playing without a complete team, but Johnson said that playing shorthanded is giving some players a chance to step up.
“I told them not to worry about the score,” Johnson said. “It’s a good opportunity for them to prepare for when those players aren’t on the court … Working without them is important for their development, too.”
After losing the first two games at the Watsonville Wildcatz Tournament, Lucy Lilienthal scored 11 points in SLV’s 52-19 win against Harbor on the final day of the tournament.
That ignited a three-game winning streak including a big 55-26 victory against Pacific Point on Dec. 9. Lilienthal scored a season-best 14 points and dished out five assists for the Cougars.
Lilienthal, a guard/forward, is posting an average of 7.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Junior guard Amelia Sizemore, who is averaging 8 points per game, and junior guard Amelia Sizemore have also been an impact on the team.
The Cougars recently had three of their preseason games canceled due to travel and overscheduling conflicts. They were on the verge of taking an extended break but instead received a small taste of what league play will look like.
SLV came up short in a 38-26 non-league loss to Santa Cruz (2-6) on Dec. 23.
The Cougars SCCAL “B” Division championship during the abbreviated 2021 spring season was the first title in the program’s history.
Lahey said adjusting back to the original setup with six teams is going to be a drastic difference.
“I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement overall for every player,” Lahey said. “But besides that, I think we’re going to be good for the season.”
In order to repeat as league champion, they’ll have to get past the 18-time SCCAL champion Cardinals, who are fresh off a perfect 16-0 season that led them to SCCAL “A” Division and Central Coast Section Division III titles.
SLV will also have to go up against Aptos High (8-3), Scotts Valley High (4-5), Soquel High (3-4) and Harbor High (1-8).
Once they get to full strength, Johnson believes that they can turn some heads this upcoming league season.
“We’re going to surprise some people, if not, at the very least be competitive,” he said. “That’s the goal, to remain a competitive team against a very challenging league in this area.”