Exciting hoop days ahead

Hollister High’s Gina Caianiello knows this is her last chance
to show she’s one of the elite guards in the Central Coast
Hollister High’s Gina Caianiello knows this is her last chance to show she’s one of the elite guards in the Central Coast Section. If Caianiello’s performance last Friday in the championship game of the Mt. Pleasant Tournament is any indication, she is well on her way to doing just that.

Playing at the two guard, Caianiello had 20 points, eight assists, six steals and turned the ball over just twice as the Lady Balers routed Del Mar 66-42 to take the Mt. Pleasant tourney title. After a disappointing junior season, Caianiello exhibited the skills needed to take this Baler team to the top.

It will not be easy in the Tri-County Athletic League for the Lady Balers. Both Notre Dame and Salinas won respective tournaments this past weekend. And North Salinas, with Jennifer Patterson and Monica Abott, have the height to match up with the likes of Baler frontline players Sarah Groman and Naomi Ruiz.

The Spirits have the brilliant Jessica Ross, while Notre Dame center Julie Martin was named tourney MVP in the Gilroy Classic. And like Ross, Spirits guard Serena Benavente has the ability to dominate a game from the perimeter, which is not easy to do.

That’s where Caianiello comes in. She has to be the one in control when the Balers meet the Spirits. Not Ross or Benavente. That goes for not only in the TCAL, but in the Central Coast Section playoffs, where the Balers have a tendency to square off with Archbishop Mitty. The Monarchs, per usual, are one of the top teams in the state. Yes, the CCS Division I playoffs are far away. But, no, it is never too early to talk about it.

The Lady Balers should start thinking about Mitty now and how they can beat the Monarchs. The way they played against Del Mar on Friday, they should be able to give the Monarchs a good game when it’s time to meet each other.

Caianiello will be the main catalyst, but Groman will have to counter the Monarchs all-state center Jenna Green. Ruiz has to contribute at both ends of the floor. The Balers will have to scrap defensively when they take on the Monarchs. Let’s face it. They will meet.

The Baler boys are off to a strong start, as well. Swing man Kyle Sharp and guard Broc Sondgroth were named all-tourney at the Overfelt Tournament last weekend. The Balers had a good showing, taking third place with an 18-point win over Overfelt. Live Oak, which the Balers will see twice during league play, fell six points shy of knocking off Newark Memorial in the title game, losing 43-38.

The Acorns will be huge this year, which means the Balers will have to shoot a high percentage and block out on the defensive boards to win. This looks to be the best Baler team, emphasizing the word ‘team’, which I have seen since covering them the past four seasons. One key could be the emergence of sophomore guard Eric Davis. I’ve heard some good things about him, but have only caught a glimpse of him.

He seems to be court savvy and has the ability to distribute the ball properly to the Baler shooters. Center Anthony Butler needs to stay consistent for the Balers to win close games. He can’t disappear in the big games.

All in all, it looks like a very good year for basketball junkies in Hollister. They could do a lot worse than to come to Mattson Gym to check out Baler boys and girls hoop. Both should be entertaining in 2002-03 and present an exciting brand of basketball.

That you can bank on.

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