Team chemistry key in renewed push to playoffs

Martinez Tribune

If there’s one word that Jason Bautista uses more than any other in reference to his team, its chemistry.

The varsity girls’ coach made it clear that the time the girls spent on the court in the summer is the most important element to the team’s hot start.

“They showed up four or five days a week for work outs this summer, and that is definitely attributing to our chemistry on the court,” Bautista said. “Chemistry plays a huge role in any sport, and gives us an advantage over teams that have to put it together in a couple of weeks in November.”

Because of when Bautista was hired prior to last season, this summer’s camps where the first he ran with his own philosophy and style.

Prior to that the second-year head coach spent time at Martinez Junior High games not only to see the talent coming down the road, but to build a relationship within the community. Which has in turn allowed younger players to step straight into the team without missing a beat.

Bautista credits long time MJHS coach Mark Duarte with creating a winning atmosphere at the junior high level, but also preparing the girls for what would be expected of them in high school.

“My job is to be sure I acclimate them to the high school level early,” Bautista said. “These underclassmen that are playing well at the varsity level now, it just shows how hard they’ve worked.”

Girls like Abby Brown and Bry Waters, both sophomores, have taken important roles within the squad. Because Bautista likes his team to be able to run the court, the vision Brown offers at point guard meshes well with the speed Waters can provide on the break.

And any coach that can throw out a sophomore and freshman to run his offense like Bautista can with Brown and Kaylee Pond, knows he has the foundation set for a while.

But that doesn’t mean he has forgotten about the girls who have been with the program the longest. Despite not having played since last February, Karissa Wiebalk still remains apart of the plans for this season. Early signs point to a return before the end of the calendar year for the 6-foot senior who has been a starter since her freshman year.

She along with Saelym Schmidt and Lani Lara are the only three girls on the team who remember what it felt like to break the nine-year playoff drought only two seasons ago.

“[The girls] get along well off the court, and each one of them knows what they bring to the team,” Bautista said of his mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen. “On this team, we’re looking for them [Schmidt and Lara] to shoot. On offense we want them to stretch the defense. They bought into it.”

That mix really ties in nicely to the way the coach is planning on deploying his players and handing out minutes. At the moment, you’ll be hard-pressed to see a girl anywhere close to six feet tall. But in a few weeks, you could see a much bigger line up.

Last season, Bautista said Kiera Rios really began developing her game due to head-to-head match ups in practice with Wiebalk. Now, the junior is doing it on the court. She gives the team much needed length, and with games like her 14-point, 11 rebound performance against West High School in the final of the Antioch Tournament, she’ll provide a fresh look on offense.

Alhambra’s girls performance at the aforementioned Antioch Tournament will also have bearing on how their season progresses. The win brought the team their first piece of silverware since they won their West Coast Jamboree Bracket two seasons ago.

With another chance to host a tournament, the Bulldog girls will get a chance to play three games before the calendar turnover and Diablo Athletic League play coming soon after.

“Our goal is to be prepared on what we do well each and every night,” Bautista said. “Our hope is to win three games, and we want to represent Alhambra well.”

About Gerardo Recinos

Gerardo Recinos is a journalist currently living in Concord, Calif. He is a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, with a degree in Journalism (History minor). Gerardo covers sports throughout Martinez and Pleasant Hill. It's his lifelong mission to get people in the U.S. to stop calling football "soccer," and to call American football "handegg."

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