The Covid-19 pandemic nearly put a damper on this year’s season for the San Lorenzo Valley High girls basketball team for a second straight year.
But, the Cougars were allowed to continue their season due to changes in the state’s youth sports guidelines. They made the most of it by bringing home the program’s first-ever Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title.
SLV sophomore guard Lucy Lilienthal had 12 points in a 45-27 win against Pajaro Valley High in the league’s tournament “B” Division championship on May 26.
SLV coach Adam Johnson said it’s been surreal to think about how they got to this point during a shortened Covid-19 season that had several peaks and valleys.
“Everything came together pretty quickly,” he said.
He mentioned that he’s especially proud of the team for coming together during a time when they didn’t know if there was going to be a season.
The second-year coach managed to get a full year under his belt, and yet Johnson said he felt like this season was essentially a reboot of his first with the Cougars.
Johnson heard in February that the season was likely moving forward. But, they weren’t allowed to hold official practices until one week prior to the start of the season on April 14.
They jumped into the preseason with non-league games against Scotts Valley and Soquel high schools.
The Cougars were missing several players who were still playing volleyball, which was part of Season 1 in the SCCAL. Johnson said it was a challenge at first but then the girls started trickling in bit by bit.
“We didn’t have a complete team to start the season,” he said.
Johnson faced another challenge when a couple of girls opted for softball instead of joining the basketball team. He said he doesn’t have a problem with their decision but he noted that they’re still competing against the softball program for players.
The coaching staff managed to get 13 active players on the roster this season. Johnson said they were more than ready to play at any given time.
After back-to-back losses in the preseason, the Cougars won eight straight including last week’s league-clinching game against the Grizzlies.
SLV freshman guard Hannah Morley, who was recently named to the All-SCCAL First Team, finished with 11 points and nine steals that night.
The Cougars had a 26-12 lead going into the break and never looked back. Junior Lili Trageser had eight points, including six in the third quarter.
They finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and SLV is on its way to the Central Coast Section playoffs.
The Cougars had earned a bye in the SCCAL tournament semifinals after its game against Harbor High was scratched. The Pirates went into quarantine after possibly coming in contact with an opposing player who tested positive for Covid-19.
Santa Cruz County has been in the less restrictive “Minimal” yellow tier, which means basketball players are no longer required to test for Covid-19 within the county, according to the California Department of Public Health.
SLV along with Pajaro Valley and Aptos High also went through the same procedure after they produced positive tests earlier this season. Those programs had to be quarantined for 14 days.
It was another dilemma that Johnson had to deal with. However, he talked to his assistant coaches prior to the season.
They agreed to make sure that each player got some playing time this year, especially after going through rigorous Covid-19 testing procedures.
“You’re doing all this extra work and the last thing I want to do is discourage anyone from playing in the future and build the program up,” he said.
Johnson said he has a young talented group of players that love to compete, including Lilienthal who was also named to the All-SCCAL First Team this season.
SLV juniors Jadynne Swint and Abby Lahey also made a huge impact this season.
Swint and Lahey made the All-SCCAL Second Team at the guard and forward positions, respectively.
Other players to watch for are junior forward Emma LaVerne and the Trageser sisters, junior guard/forward Lili and sophomore guard Ashli. The trio were named all-league honorable mentions.
Johnson hopes that winning the SCCAL title will draw more interest to the program. And not just in recruiting more players but out in the public, as well.
“That’s really my hope, is having more fans in the stands and having more people who want to show their support for them as well,” he said.