Hollister girls basketball is on a roll and they want it to continue. The Balers had hit a bit of a dry spell since the league championship team of 2007-08, but that has changed.
“The last two years, we split for the league title with North Salinas,” coach Mitch Burley said. “That is the standard they want to keep. This is probably the deepest team we have ever had. We are deep one through twelve.”
The last two years, Hollister hit their high points as co-champions of the Pacific Coast Athletic League, Gabilan Division. In 2021-22, Hollister recorded an 18-7 mark and reached the second round of the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs.
In 2022-23, the Balers were 18-5 and went two deep in CCS Division I action again.
This winter, led by star senior Bailey Cotter—the co-league MVP last year—and with a deep crew of contributors, Hollister aims to reach the top again, with the Vikings and up-and-coming Alisal the likely competitors.
“Everyone knows Bailey Cotter,” Burley said. “She’s the one that makes us go. Our most consistent player is Claire Gho. She is a junior forward and is really good on defense and rebounding.”
In the season-opening Watsonville Tournament at the beginning of December, Hollister beat Scotts Valley 57-17 and Sobrato 45-37, then lost the title contest to hot-shooting Christopher 70-54 to finish second.
Against the Bulldogs on Dec. 1, Hollister pulled away from a 19-18 halftime lead to build a 10-point margin after three quarters and never let Sobrato get closer than seven.
“We played alright, could have done better,” said Cotter, who scored 12 points. “We’re going to improve. Our passing was good. Our movement, passing and cutting.”
In the third stanza the referenced depth was on display. Miranda Martinez drained a long 3-pointer from the left wing, Emery Sparling sank two layups on fast breaks and Madelyn Davis nailed a long three from the top. The depth provides a nice complement to Cotter, who scored on drives, pull-up jumpers, underneath and from the perimeter.
“It was a struggle today,” Burley said. “Their man-to-man defense caused us trouble. We adjusted and spread it out a bit.”
Hollister’s bench contributed during the three-game tournament. Burley also called on sophomore Daniela Orsetti, junior Jasayla Mariscal, senior Tatiana Marquez and freshmen Juliana Brackensick and Jadah Gonzalez.
In the championship game against Christopher on Dec. 2, Cotter was on fire, sinking four hoops in each half and finishing with 21 points. Sparling and Gho each scored seven points and lefty Brackensick provided outside firepower with three long-range triples for a total of nine points.
It wasn’t enough against red-hot Christopher. The Cougars quickly moved the ball around the outside to set up open looks and they were cashing in treys all day. Nat Javier led Christopher with 22 points, including six threes, and the team scored a total of 14 three-pointers as they pulled away from a tie game in the second quarter to build a 36-26 halftime lead, holding off Hollister flurries thereafter.
“It’s another game of experience,” Burley said. “We’ll put it in the experience bank. They (Christopher) shot the lights out. If they can do that, they’ll beat a lot of teams. We got more experience breaking the press. We started making the right passes.”
League play begins on Jan. 3 at home against Everett Alvarez. The third week of league matches will be a thriller, with both North Salinas and Alisal visiting the Balers, the former on Jan. 17 and the latter two days later.
“It’s my senior year and I’m really trying to make the most of it,” Cotter said. “We’d love a league championship. In league, everyone’s going to be good competition. Definitely Alisal. They have everyone back from last year. I’m excited to see how it goes against them.”