The girls had a 3-3 record in the ultra-tough Mission League as of press time, but with two games left in the regular season, the team has its sights set on the playoffs, where it is likely to be the No. 2 seed in the 4-AA CIF Southern Section Division.
The Mission League has two teams ranked in the top 10 in California. Chaminade is the number two team in the state and in the nation (both behind Mater Dei), and Bishop Alemany is the number seven team in the state and number 14 in the nation according to Maxpreps.com. The format of the league is each team plays the other teams in the league two times, once at home and once away. The girls were blown out by both Chaminade and Bishop Alemany the first time they played, but in the second game against Chaminade last week, the Wolverines only lost by six.
“We definitely started out nervous,” Head Coach Melissa Hearlihy said. “All of the hype was there. The game was something to be nervous about.”
Since Chaminade starts two girls that are 6-foot-1, Hearlihy said that their height was a little intimidating, but after the first quarter, the girls settled down.
Once the team relaxed and started playing its style of basketball, the girls cut the lead down to one before Chaminade answered with a couple of three pointers.
Though the game resulted in a 66-60 loss, Hearlihy said that the team felt good when the game was over that it is ready to compete at the next level.
“We’ve lost a lot of games, but we’ve also played a lot of really good teams. That was the point of our schedule,” Hearlihy said. “It wasn’t about how many games we could win this year, we needed to play the best to become the best.”
Lindsey Tse ’16 handled the ball for most of the game against Chaminade, using her ball handling skills to consistently break the press and get the ball to other players in their favorite spots. Tse has been controlling the tempo all season and has dominated offensively, including a 16-point effort against Chaminade. The team will rely on the experience of Tse and Teeana Cotangco ’15 with playoffs around the corner.
The squad has another big test this week against Bishop Alemany as it will try to bounce back from the loss it suffered in their first matchup. The team will finish Mission League play against Marlborough, a fast-paced team that likes to run the floor like the Wolverines do.
In addition to trying to pick up two wins, the team will be trying to perfect certain aspects of its game that may make a substantial impact in the playoffs. One of these issues is half-court offense.
“Sometimes offensively you have to settle down, and we struggle with that, coming down, setting up and still having enough time on the shot clock,” Hearlihy said.
Bishop Alemany is tied with Chaminade for the league title, meaning its team is going to come at the girls with everything is has, given that each game could decide the league championship. The game is also away in Bishop Alemany’s historically loud and distracting gym. The game, therefore, has all the makings of a late round playoff matchup. The girls will need to comfortably break the press and limit turnovers to have a chance at an upset, Hearlihy said.
Defensively, the girls have been aggressive and effective all season, but Hearlihy said that she does not want to settle for good; she wants her team’s defense to be great. This means improving weak side and help defense.
As of now, the girls are seeded fourth in the division 4-AA playoffs behind Sierra Canyon, Oaks Christian and Serra, but two teams are likely to move up to the open division, according to Hearlihy. The open division takes the best teams from each division and puts them into their own bracket.
“Looking at the division, we have a great chance, and now that we are closer to that goal, some of the younger kids are starting to kick it in and figure it out,” Hearlihy said.
The improved play of the younger players in addition to the fact that the team is the healthiest it has been all season in terms of injuries means that the team could very well be peaking at just the right time.
“I don’t think we are peaking for playoffs, I know we are,” Hearlihy said. “I can see the competitiveness and the urgency in practice. We’ve talked about this all year long and now it’s here.”