Mitch Burley wouldn’t be surprised if his team had a different leading scorer from game to game this season. Burley, who is in his sixth year as the San Benito High girls basketball coach, said he has a roster filled with several solid players who complement each other well.
The Haybalers, who were 2-2 entering Thursday’s game against Aptos in the Watsonville Tournament, will be solid as usual. They’re coming off a season in which they finished 6-6 in league play, good for a third-place finish. If San Benito expects to contend for a league title, however, they’ll have to be more adept at breaking full-court pressure from teams like North Salinas and Monte Vista Christian.
San Benito faced plenty of press defense in a 72-34 loss to perennial power Presentation in the second game of the season. However, Burley felt OK coming off the defeat considering the team improved as the game went along.
“We actually got better and broke the press a few times,” Burley said. “It seemed like the girls gained confidence. I told them it was good practice for us once we get in league and play the teams that will press us.”
Burley acknowledged the team must work on its shooting, as it couldn’t get Lincoln High out of its zone defense in a season-opening loss to the San Jose school. But Burley saw some really positive things in the Balers’ 33-31 win over Burlingame last Saturday.
“This was the game that would tell us where we’re at because they played man to man defense the whole time, just like we did,” he said. “Both teams struggled a little bit turning the ball over, but I felt like we executed enough in our offense to get easy layups. That made the difference of the game.”
The Balers start four seniors—shooting guard Kianna Garcia, forward C.C. Vasquez and posts Ashley Sparrer and Jessica Curto—along with sophomore point guard Alyssa Ito, who has been doing a nice job of running the offense and limiting turnovers.
Curto and Sparrer are expected to carry the brunt of the rebounding load and keep opposing players off the glass. Both players worked hard in the off-season and developed a new aspect of their game.
“Jessica played a lot of AAU ball and is better at shooting the ball,” Burley said. “I expect her to be one of our more consistent players who I can count on. Ashley worked hard on taking the ball to the basket with her left hand. She’s pretty agile and a strong rebounder.”
Garcia is the team’s top threat from 3-point range, and Vasquez the most versatile. Able to defend multiple positions and play the point when Ito is not on the floor, Vasquez is going to be key in the Balers’ success.
“She can play the one through four positions because she’s got long arms and can defend someone who is bigger than her,” Burley said. “But she’s also quick enough to defend someone who is smaller than her.”
Junior guards Berenice Martinez and Karina Colins are the top two reserve players.
“Berenice is a scorer who can get in the lane, flip it up and is a decent shooter, too,” Burley said. “Karina always knows where to be and does right thing. She’s very fundamental and is a good player to have on the team.”
Another player Burley had high hopes for was Mariya Banuelos, who suffered a sprained ankle in the season-opener.
“That was a bummer because Mariya was a starter and contributing,” Burley said. “Mariya helps the team in a lot of ways. She reads defenses pretty well, knows how to screen and roll properly and has proper footwork. We’re hoping she can come back healthy for us at some point this season.”