Why wait around, right? Just dive into the current right away, testing the waters at their toughest.
Thus, the North girls went to battle Tuesday night against ancient rival EHS, as the summer basketball campaign kicked off with an old and bitter matchup. The Lady Bobcats have had the better of the clash the past few seasons, with the Lady Coogs trying to rebound from a couple of so-so runs.
If the gap is to be closed in 2017-18, North returning to the ranks of the title contenders, it stands to reason that Lesley Martinez is going to be one of the reasons. The sophomore bombed in four three-pointers and totaled 17 points, leading a late rally that closed the team to within 13 at the end. The down side, of course, was that the Lady Coogs had trailed by as much as 25 earlier in a difficult night.
The fact is, EHS is going to be one of the favorites for preseason No. 1 in the Valley come regular season time, with three excellent starters back and a couple of bigs down low that will give the club more size than it has enjoyed the past two years.
The starters are familiar faces – the Santa Maria sisters and the Human Bruise, Mercy Hernandez. The big kids are Dani Rivas and Bri Sanchez, and the latter was particularly effective at times Tuesday. Having lost some solid seniors to graduation, the team will need those two posts to make their presence felt.
North meanwhile seems to have a somewhat similar group as compared to past seasons; several defensive hustlers and the will to push the ball upcourt and put pressure on the defense. Lefty veteran Bri Martinez is adept at doing this but there are very few other proven entities on hand right now.
That means the summer will be a huge learning opportunity for some young players, such as guard Miranda Gaitan, for example.
North’s summer squad is coached by former program great Vicky Pena, and for awhile against EHS, Lesley Martinez was doing a pretty fair Tricky Vicky imitation out there. She was everywhere on D, forcing turnovers with fast, aggressive hands, and as stated was hot from the outside in the second half. By then, though, the smooth Santa Marias and the never smooth but always effective Hernandez had made mincemeat out of the North squad, leading at one point 15-2, later 39-14.
It’s going to be an uphill climb for North but the unit has depth and athleticism. The summer is all about the mesh, finding combinations, and building confidence at the offensive end. By the time the season hits, expect the Lady Coogs to have done the heavy lifting it takes to make improvement; they should be in the race if the youth can persevere and negotiate the speed of the varsity level.
As for EHS, well, with three All-Valley candidates in the house and a promising inside tandem showing strides, expect the Lady ‘Cats to be as they have been for a very long time. That is, formidable, and a threat to win the league once again.