Scotts Valley High senior Kaitlin Imai surpassed 1,000 career points scored as a member of the Falcons girls' basketball team. (file photo)

Scotts Valley senior guard Kaitlin Imai describes the Falcons girls’ basketball team as a group full of hustle and always putting in 100% effort during the game, which is what has allowed them to be successful this season. 

“We all want to see each other succeed and see our team succeed, that’s really what it is for us,” she said. 

Imai was pretty successful on the court in Tuesday night’s Central Coast Section quarterfinal game, finishing with a game-high 35 points including nine 3-pointers for the No. 4 seed Falcons in their crushing 51-32 win against No. 5 Carmel High.

Imai had a pair of 4-point plays and she made 4-of-4 free throw attempts to go along with six rebounds and five steals.

“I think the pressure of the game and the fact that it’s CCS, and we want to get as far as we can, played into it,” she said. “I think our team did a really good stepping up to the challenge today and that opened me up to be able to knock down some shots.”

Imai had 27 points in the first half and seven 3-pointers that gave Scotts Valley a 34-17 lead going into halftime. 

In 22 games this season—12 preseason and 10 league games—she is averaging 22.5 points per game and has made 77 3-point shot attempts. She’s ranked third in the CCS in both categories. 

Imai wasn’t shy this season when it came to shooting from beyond the arc. She set a CCS record with 13 3-pointers made in a game against Santa Cruz High on Jan. 21.

Imai had all of the Falcons’ 13 points in the first quarter, making all four of her 3-point attempts including a 4-point play on one of them. 

Scotts Valley coach Gabe Gonzalez said he switched from a man defensive set to a zone defense, which he felt also hurt the Padres for the remainder of the game.

“The girls were just scrappy in the zone,” he said. “It was all five diving into the paint, fighting for loose balls.”

Gonzalez, who mentioned he used to be a scrappy player himself, said they played as if it was their final game and it showed on the court Tuesday evening.

The Falcons were without the services of juniors Elana McGrew and Hailey McKinney, a pair of key starters that can produce points, grab rebounds and play defense.

A couple of players had to step up such as senior Ava Turowski, who finished with six points, five rebounds and two steals.

Other big-time contributors included junior Alyssa Rebbert, who led the Falcons with eight rebounds, and freshman Ruby Erickson contributed four points. 

“A lot of people have had to adjust to new positions and really just step up and take on more of a role on the team,” Imai said. “But, everyone’s done so with no complaints and they’re all willing to do it. So I’m really proud of everybody.”

Gonzalez said he’s also proud of them, especially for some of the players who were put in different positions that they’ve never played before. 

“For me, it was the girls being resilient. Coming out and playing for each other,” he said.

Turowski and Rebbert hadn’t played in the guard position the entire season but they were asked to fill in that role. Gonzalez told both players the situation they were in and they accepted the challenge.

Erickson’s buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter was another big play that the Falcons needed from their reserves.

“It was just an amazing team effort,” Gonzalez said. “And I just can’t say it enough, obviously it helps when Kaitlin has 35 points and 22 of our 24 at one point… But I just want to make sure that all these girls have bought into their roles.”

Scotts Valley (15-8, 7-3), runner-up in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League, will have to play top-seeded Menlo School in the D-IV semifinals on Thursday at 7pm.

The Knights (14-7, 7-3), who were runner-up in the West Bay Athletic League’s Foothill Division, competed in the same league as Pinewood School (21-1, 10-0), which is ranked No. 5 in the state and No. 2 in the CCS by MaxPreps.  

Menlo is ranked No. 101 in the state and No. 12 in the CCS. The Falcons are ranked No. 438 in the state and No. 51 in the CCS.

Gonzalez said it’ll be a tough game for them, especially with some of their starters still expected to be sidelined. Still, he’s proud of the type of year they’ve had and to be in a position that nobody thought they could be. 

“Our goal each and every day is for having those teams take away everything from us,” he said. “You have to take it from us and we’re not going to allow it to be easy. If you can take it from us and we don’t give them everything, we’re going to be just fine.” 

Imai said they’ve fought hard to be in this position and it’s just a matter of staying with the same mindset that they’re going to get a win if they play their game.

And no matter what the outcome is come Thursday, Imai believes they still had a successful season especially because most people in the county didn’t think so.

“It’s a big accomplishment for us to be able to prove those people wrong and just prove to ourselves that we’re good enough to be here, and we deserve to be here through all the work that we put in. I’m really proud of our team throughout this entire season.” 

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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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