Basketball: For Balers, it’s Muy Bueno!

San Benito High senior shooting guard Jessica Bueno attempts a shot in first-quarter action against Seaside on Tuesday.

From an early age, Jessica Bueno had a knack for shooting the ball. Introduced to the game at 6 or 7, Bueno always received advice from her dad, Manuel, on the fundamentals of proper shooting technique. The San Benito High senior shooting guard has used that advice every time she went into a practice or game, and it’s evident her diligence and hard work have paid off.
The 5-foot-2 Bueno is one of the team’s top shooters, capable of draining a flurry of 3-pointers on a moment’s notice. The senior had 13 points in a 61-50 win over Gilroy on Jan. 19, a nice way to bust out of her mini shooting slump.
“I had been struggling with my shot for a little while,” Bueno said. “My dad was telling me I wasn’t setting my feet and was too quick firing my shots off. It’s something I want to improve on.”
Even though Bueno shot well against Gilroy, she took greater pride in excelling in the other areas of the game.
“Defensively, I played well,” she said. “And I had to bring the ball up at times and set the pace for everyone.”
Bueno played some point guard when Alyssa Ito was not on the floor, and the adjustment was a big difference from a mental standpoint.
“When I’m at shooting guard, I’m trying my hardest to come off screens and get open,” she said. “The focus is on shooting. Playing the point, you’re trying to make sure everyone is in the right place as you set up the play.”
A year ago, Bueno spent most of her time on the bench. It was a tough experience at first after she had a pair of outstanding seasons—first on the freshmen team and then the junior varsity squad. However, Bueno acknowledged she wasn’t quite ready for the bright lights of the varsity level, and she made it a point to improve in the last off-season.
“Last year was tough, but I used it as a learning experience,” she said. “I knew I needed to work on some things. Just seeing the faster pace of the game gave me good perspective on how much I needed to improve.”
Balers coach Mitch Burley said Bueno was stuck behind a guard-heavy senior roster a year ago.
“I kind of knew she was going to be our shooting guard a starter every game type of thing this season,” he said. “She’s done a lot of things well for us.”
Bueno had 17 points against league-leader Monte Vista Christian on Jan. 21, and there have been several other instances in which she has sparked the team with her ability to connect from the outside.
In a typical practice, Bueno will shoot anywhere from 20 to 30 3-pointers.
“I’ll make 12 to 15 if it’s 20 (attempts), and 22 to 25 if it’s 30,” she said. “That gives me confidence for the game.”
Bueno has to be resourceful to get her shot off against taller players. Bueno utilizes screens well and has a quick release, two traits that give her the sliver of daylight to release a shot over defenders.
“I have to be quicker and run a lot so I can get open,” she said.
Bueno had a terrific game in a 44-43 win over Salinas on Jan. 12, draining four shots from beyond the arc. In that contest, Bueno was relaxed and loose. When Bueno’s shot is off, it’s usually because she’s rushing things a bit.
“I know I have to slow things down sometimes,” she said. “Just trust in the process and have my feet set, elbows in and not have my feet too far apart. Shooting-wise, I always aim for the front of the rim, because even if I miss and hit the front of the rim, it has a chance to bounce back in.”
Even when Bueno is in the midst of a shooting slump, she knows she can’t stop shooting. After all, a pure shooter never stops shooting.
“I’m always working on my shot,” she said. “All of the hard work over the years has really paid off.”
Notes: The Balers improved to 10-8 overall and 3-3 in league play after a 39-30 win over Seaside on Tuesday. Burley praised the efforts of Maddy Gutierrez-Urban, who finished with 15 rebounds. San Benito was up 26-23 before connecting on three consecutive shots to pull away.
“It was not our best offensive performance, but it was good enough to get a W,” Burley said. “We did a 1-2-2 full-court press and forced them into a lot of turnovers. Unfortunately, we were turning it over more than we should have in the first half.”

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