On Cloud Nine – The undermanned girls’ basketball team is a mainstay near the top of both national and statewide rankings

On Cloud Nine – The undermanned girls’ basketball team is a mainstay near the top of both national and statewide rankings

Jayla Rufus-Milner ’18 fires off a buzzer-beater during the team’s 59-24 victory over FSHA on Jan. 5. The team is 14-1 and ranked 17th in the nation as of press time. It will play against Alemany, the state’s 15th-ranked team, on Jan. 19. Credit: Pavan Tauh/Chronicle

Injuries have left the girls’ basketball team with few players, but they have even fewer losses. After winning three consecutive tournaments, the team has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in California.

Despite having just nine players on the roster and often being reduced to a 7-person rotation, the squad has one defeat this season, a 44-41 loss to Ventura in December.

“One of the main reasons why we have been successful this season is because of the cohesiveness of the team,” guard Ashlee Wong ’18 said. “Each player knows where her other teammates are going to be on the court, which has helped improve our offense.”

Wong also said that the teammates’ bond with each other contributes to the success.

“Our team is exceptionally unselfish which helps us find open players and take good shots,” she said. “Our work ethic as a team is good, and we work hard during practice and during games.”

Another guard, Melanie Hirsch ’18, attributes the strong record to the team’s physical fitness.

“I’d said one of our biggest strengths is our conditioning,” she said. “We’re able to outrun teams, and that’s what allows us to win in the long haul a lot of the time.”

Hirsch echoed Wong’s sentiment about the team’s strong bond neutralizing their lack of personnel. She has a point; the El Camino Real varsity girls’ basketball team has 13 players, and Flintridge Sacred Heart has 12. The Wolverines defeated both teams.

“Our pure desire to win definitely accounts for our success,” Hirsch said. “We don’t care about our individual stats or making ourselves look good. We just care about winning at the end of the day. Also our team has been together for the past three years, so we’ve all gotten really close. We know each other really well both on and off the court.”

Power forward Jayla Ruffus-Milner ’18 belives the team’s confidence, which has only grown as the wins have piled up, plays a big role in its success.

“We all have confidence in the capability of our team to do great things and win challenging games,” Ruffus-Milner said. “This confidence allows us to have more trust and closer bonds on and off the court, making us a really strong force to mess with.”

Their work is far from done, as the team still has seven league games to play.

However, the squad still retains its high hopes and expectations for the remainder of the season.

“I expect us to win league this year, given our upward improvement and momentum,” Wong said. “If we can limit our mistakes, I believe this will happen.”

The squad’s next league matchup is a highly-antipicated home  game against Alemany on Jan. 19 at 6 pm. Both teams are high up in MaxPreps’ California state rankings (as of press time, the Wolverines are 6th, and the Warriors are 15th).

“I believe in my team’s capabilities one hundred percent,” Ruffus-Milner said.

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