The Covid-19 pandemic almost put a damper on this year’s season for the San Lorenzo Valley High girls’ basketball team for a second year in a row.
But, the Cougars have been allowed to continue their season due to changes in state athletic guidelines for youth. They made the most of it by winning the program’s first-ever Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title.
SLV second-year guard Lucy Lilienthal had 12 points in a 45-27 victory over Pajaro Valley High in the “B” Division Championship of the league tournament on May 26.
SLV coach Adam Johnson said it was surreal to reflect on how they got to this point in a shortened Covid-19 season that has seen several peaks and valleys.
“It all fell into place quite quickly,” he said.
He mentioned that he was especially proud of the team for coming together at a time when they were unsure if there would be a season.
The sophomore coach managed to get a full year under his belt, and yet Johnson said he feels like this season is essentially a reboot of his first with the Cougars.
Johnson heard in February that the season was probably moving on. But, they were not allowed to hold official training until a week before the start of the season on April 14.
They jumped into the preseason with non-championship games against Scotts Valley and Soquel high schools.
The Cougars were missing several players who were still playing volleyball, which was part of SCCAL Season 1. Johnson said it was a challenge at first, but then the girls started to come in little by little.
“We didn’t have a full squad to start the season,” he said.
Johnson faced another challenge when a few girls opted for softball instead of joining the basketball team. He said he had no problem with their decision, but noted that they were still competing with the softball program for players.
The coaching staff has managed to get 13 active players on the roster this season. Johnson said they were more than ready to play at any time.
After back-to-back preseason losses, the Cougars have earned eight straight wins, including the league’s decisive game last week against the Grizzlies.
SLV first-year 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 before the break and have never looked back. Junior Lili Trageser had eight points, six of which were in the third quarter.
They finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and SLV is on their way to the Central Coast Section playoffs.
The Cougars were given a pass in the semifinals of the SCCAL tournament after their game against Harbor High was called off. The Pirates entered quarantine after eventually coming into contact with an opposing player who tested positive for Covid-19.
Santa Cruz County has been in the less restrictive “minimum” yellow level, which means basketball players are no longer required to test for Covid-19 in the county, according to the California Department of Public Health .
SLV, Pajaro Valley and Aptos High also went through the same procedure after producing positive tests earlier this season. These programs had to be quarantined for 14 days.
This was another dilemma Johnson faced. However, he spoke to his assistant coaches ahead of the season.
They agreed to make sure every player has a bit of playing time this year, especially after going through rigorous Covid-19 testing procedures.
“You are doing all that extra work and the last thing I want to do is discourage anyone from playing in the future and developing the program,” he said.
Johnson said he has a group of talented young players who enjoy competing, including Lilienthal who has also been named to the All-SCCAL first team this season.
SLV juniors Jadynne Swint and Abby Lahey have also had a huge impact this season.
Swint and Lahey were part of the All-SCCAL second team in guard and striker positions, respectively.
Other players to watch are junior forward Emma LaVerne and the Trageser sisters, junior guard / striker Lili and second year guard Ashli. The trio have been named honorable mentions of all leagues.
Johnson is hopeful that winning the SCCAL title will attract more interest in the program. And not just by recruiting more players, but also in public.
“It’s really my hope, is to have more fans in the stands and to have more people who also want to show them their support,” he said.