It’s no optical illusion, and no, there aren’t three of her out there, running and hustling, busting up plays, making things happen with sheer will and want-to; it just seems like it sometimes.
Watching Miranda Gaytan on the basketball court can tire a person out, because she is absolutely indefatigable. North’s little flame bounces from fray to fray, using quick hands, anticipation and desire to harass on defense and create on offense. But the attribute that makes her the Lady Coog leader these days is simpler, more visceral.
“It’s heart,” says the diminutive guard, heading into her junior year with two hoops letters won already. “I just play with a lot of heart, that’s my secret. That and running cross country. That has helped me stay in shape and not get as tired.”
As the Lady Cougars fought off a game effort from Econ Thursday, Gaytan’s moxie and drive were paramount. She made a bevy of steals, penetrated for several sharp passes, and scored ably when the opportunity arose. At one point Gaytan ran far off the court in search of a loose ball, and later launched into the corner to kiss the wall and save another errant roundball. Her work-rate is off the charts, to borrow a futbol phrase.
The Lady Coogs are dealing with the transfer of two starters away from the mix, and will come into 2018-19 with only a few that have ridden the varsity rapids before.
Gaytan and Kaitlyn Lozano are birds of a feather, battlers who attack from the opening whistle. Lozano is an inside version of outside Gaytan, playing with real aggression and desire: Miranda will grab a board as well, sneaking inside several times a game to confound bigger, slower foes. She and Lozano are warriors, proven, so now if the rest of the cast can step up and play with the same intensity, it will be a promising season.
“We just have keep going, never stop, right now we are trying for that connection, to come together as a team,” said Gaytan, the niece of North coach Jenny Rae Garcia. “We have some good young players, we all just have to make the connections, get the chemistry, and then play with heart. If we do that, we’ll be tough.”
Still, against a Jag team down two injured starters – Alyssa Perez and unrelated Karla Perez – North struggled, barely pulling out a victory with a late rush. Nelly Morales and Franchezka Guevara did well for the Lady Jags, who led in the second half before fading.
In the waning time, lanky prospect Kaya Leija was active and productive to help North to the W. Newcomer Melanie Chapa is another Lady Coog who has shown she has what it takes this summer, with an offensive knack, off the dribble, to put up some numbers. She plays downhill toward the goal.
But all the while the sparkplug is Gaytan, a dedicated baller who truly seems to relish the chance to compete, summer, club, season or whatever. She seems to love the game.
Though she is about 5-feet tall, more or less, she brings a palpable spirit to the action. And a mantra.
“It’s not just about who is bigger, who has the size,” she exclaimed. “I think that sometimes it boils down to who wants it more.”
Erika Cortez of EHS wound up with the All-Area MVP recently, and several other stars from in town made the honor squad. Vela’s Naomi Reyes was the Pitcher of the Year and her coach, Jon Maples, was Coach of the Year. First teamers included Hope Rodriguez of North; Taylor Chavez of Vela; and the EHS group of Amber Reyes, Katy Truitt, and Kristee Salas. North’s Seci Lopez was second team.