San Lorenzo Valley High senior Lucy Lilienthal-Wynn is one of three seniors on the Cougars girls' basketball team that will help lead a young team during a competitive SCCAL schedule this season. (Juan Reyes/Press Banner)

Don’t look now but the San Lorenzo Valley High girls’ basketball team is one of the hottest squads to take the court this season.

The Cougars are off to a 7-0 start following a 52-17 win over Anzar in Wednesday night’s non-league game. They are one of two teams alongside North Salinas (7-0) to remain unbeaten in the area.     

“I’m impressed with their work ethic and their desire to improve along with their team chemistry, it’s been amazing thus far,” SLV coach Adam Johnson said. “I think they just want it.”

It’s the best start for SLV since going 6-1 to begin the 2009-10 season. They finished 12-15 overall and went 3-9 in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League play.

However, this year’s pride of Cougars—led by three seniors on a roster of 10 players evenly distributed by class from top to bottom—is hoping for a much better end to their season.  

Johnson is a firm believer the players have seen how far the program’s come since his first year in 2019-20.

“These girls are the product of those four years, as well,” he said. “I take no credit whatsoever.”

SLV senior Lucy Lilienthal-Wynn is leading the way by averaging 20 points per game and has a team-best 35 rebounds and 29 assists in six games played this season. 

She finished with a game-high 19 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals in a 58-33 non-league win over Pajaro Valley on Monday evening.

Fellow senior teammates Bella Reynolds and Amelia Sizemore—who are also standouts on the softball team—have been big contributors for SLV.

Reynolds uses her height advantage to snatch rebounds, while Sizemore runs the point guard position with precision. 

The rest of the cast is a good mix of veterans including juniors Hannah Morley, Kiely Jordan and Cia DeForge. The underclassmen are represented by sophomores Angie Fulkerson, Rhiannon Lawton, Violet Slayer and freshman Poppy Owens.

Johnson said the biggest challenge is keeping players healthy. Monday was the first game in nearly two weeks where they were at full strength.

“Just staying healthy has been the biggest hurdle for us in the winter season,” he said. “In my four years, I’ve never seen it this bad. Thankfully we’re all healthy now.”

Another challenge for Lilienthal-Wynn and the other upperclassmen is getting to know the lowerclassmen. Yet, the veterans are working on team bonding and owning up to their responsibilities.

“We have a pretty young team this year and it’s really on me, and the other two seniors that have been on varsity the past three to four years, to just take them under our wing,” Lilienthal-Wynn said. 

She noticed the younger players came out a bit timid. But as they’ve gone on, they’ve built up their confidence and are currently playing well.

Fulkerson, who hasn’t picked up a basketball in more than three years, has been an impact with grabbing rebounds.

Morley is averaging 19.17 points and six steals per game in six games played. She is also able to hit shots from beyond the arc, knocking in nine 3-pointers this season. 

Lilienthal-Wynn and Morley are ranked in the top-5 for scoring in the Central Coast Section, according to Johnson. 

“Just building up their confidence in practice and in the game is a big part of it,” Lilienthal-Wynn said.

SLV has six non-league games remaining including Friday night’s meeting at Monte Vista Christian in Watsonville on Friday at 5:30pm.

The Cougars will also compete in the Lady Shark Shootout tournament at St. Francis High in Watsonville on Dec. 28.

Johnson said right now it’s important for players to be locked in. Some have foregone family vacation trips in order to improve for the season, which is a level of commitment that can never be taught.

“That has to come from within and that level of commitment from them is important to our success,” he said. 

Most games have been competitive for SLV including a 60-53 win over Mercy of Burlingame on Dec. 10. Morley scored a season-high 29 points, making 11-of-16 shot attempts and tallied eight steals and five rebounds.  

Part of having these tough matchups is to prepare the underclassmen for what will be a grueling SCCAL schedule. 

“It’s awesome that we’re 6-0 but we know that we’re going to be playing a lot stronger teams when it comes to league,” Lilienthal-Wynn said.

SLV will compete for the league crown against heavy favorites Santa Cruz, which is led by senior forward Claire Thompson. 

“Todd [Trowbridge] has a great team out there as always, they’re very disciplined and execute very well,” Johnson said. “And when you have a player like Claire Thompson, she’s a game-changer.”

Soquel High senior Gianna Winterhalder will lead the Knights, followed by Aptos, Harbor and Scotts Valley, which will also be in the hunt.

“I’m excited to be able to play against them,” she said. “It’s my senior year, so I’m trying to put it all out there.”

Lilienthal-Wynn knows there’s plenty of motivation to accomplish their goals of placing top-3 in the SCCAL standings, and making a run at the CCS postseason once again. 

The Cougars will begin league play at home against the Pirates on Jan. 3 at 6pm. 

Johnson said the goal for him is to have the players leave the team in a better state than when they got there. Regardless of wins or losses, it’s about having the foundational idea of what makes a good program.

“It’s nothing short of a privilege to coach these girls and be a part of this opportunity where we can make history together,” Johnson said.

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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