It might surprise many to know that Bailey Cotter rarely has much to say on the basketball court.
“Off the court, I’m very talkative,” the San Benito High sophomore said. “It’s just on the court I’m quieter and don’t talk as much.”
Cotter lets her actions do all the talking, and her play has been nothing short of sensational since she assumed a starting role as a freshman last spring. The shooting guard scored 15 points, including 10 of the team’s 18 first-half points to keep the Haybalers competitive in an eventual 52-40 loss to Branham High in the opening round of the John Araujo Memorial Holiday Tournament at Del Mar High on Dec. 28.
San Benito (7-4) went on to win its next game against Mount Eden before losing to Evergreen Valley to close out the tournament. Cotter has picked up right where she left off from her freshman season, pouring in a career-high 34 points in a riveting 65-61 overtime win over North Salinas on Dec. 4, the team’s first victory over their nemesis since the 2013 Central Coast Section playoff tournament.
Cotter usually receives the ball at the right or left elbow area before surveying the defense. Opponents usually send a help defender and from there Cotter either drives to the basket, makes a pass or pulls up for a jumper. Being the focal point of the opposition, Cotter—who isn’t exactly a trigger-happy type of player—wants to improve in a couple areas of the game and knows she can be a little more selfish at times.
“I want to shoot more and finish my layups,” she said.
Cotter handles the ball well, makes sound decisions and as coaches like to say, the game has slowed down for her. Against Branham, she always displayed an even temperament, whether the team was close or down by double-digits.
“Bailey makes the right plays and has got the basketball IQ,” Balers coach Mitch Burley said. “She can do a lot of things well.”
Senior forward Genesis Moreta also had a solid game, finishing with 11 points. Moreta showed her shooting range by connecting on a 3-pointer while also displaying some nice moves in the paint, including a baby hook shot over Branham’s 6-foot-2 center.
“Genesis has tremendous athletic ability, but very little experience so she doesn’t yet know all the intricacies of the game,” Burley said. “But after high school if she ends up playing at a junior college and plays year-round, her growth is going to be huge because she just hasn’t played a whole lot up until this point. She does some crazy moves, going off one leg or the opposite leg and just flips it in there. They don’t always go in, but the creativity is amazing.”
In addition to the aforementioned players, the Balers are off to a nice start due to contributions from Gia Felice, Mia Villegas, Jocelyn Alexander and Juliann Donati. Cotter happens to be the catalyst of the team and the most potent offensive threat. Cotter actually grew up playing more soccer than basketball, but after her dad Gene died in July 2016, Bailey’s passion for basketball started to take off.
“My dad loved basketball and when he passed, that’s the reason I started playing it (more frequently),” she said. “That’s when I found my love for basketball.”
Gene Cotter, known as Geno, was a beloved figure not just in Hollister but in the Humboldt area where he grew up and founded the immensely popular Basketball Jones Hoops Camps which are still going strong. Burley wasn’t a family friend, but he had many interactions with Geno playing with and against him in Hollister and Watsonville city 40-and-over men’s recreation leagues.
“When you play with and against somebody enough, you get to know them because you know their tendencies and their personality for sure, all that,” Burley said.
Part of Geno Cotter’s legacy lies in Bailey, who has carved her own path to a sport she has grown to love. When Geno was on the court, he rarely stopped talking. Bailey has been the exact opposite, and yet both found success in their own way. Despite her on-court production, Cotter said the most enjoyable aspect of playing basketball is getting to know and spend time with her teammates and coaches.
“The highlight of my season is getting to know the girls and coach Mitch better and just knowing how much they mean to me,” Bailey said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958