Carrying 16 varsity players in 2013, the Davis High girls basketball team was able to deal from a full deck during its remarkable 23-5 season.
The Delta Valley Conference champion Lady Blue Devils captured their first postseason win since 2007 and — but for The Perfect Quarter — almost sent powerhouse Kennedy packing in the second round.
After DHS beat Napa, 52-46, in Round 1 of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, it took a seven-of-eight 3-point-shooting exhibition by Kennedy to knock the Devils from The Dance, 71-56, on Feb. 21.
“We did our homework. We were prepared,” second-year Davis coach Karen Foster said, remembering that her girls were up by two points entering that surreal last eight minutes. “It was just that everything went in for them. Still, we didn’t give up.”
So what now?
The locals return a relatively young but experienced team next fall — but lose a couple of senior aces in the hole (Tori Powell and Kylie Drexel) while being asked to play without their wild card (three-year standout Ashleigh Vandenbrink, who also graduates).
Foster recently took some time with The Enterprise to look back on a DHS season that featured the best winning percentage since the one-loss teams of legendary Denise Curry in the 1970s.
The first question was obvious: How do you replace DVC Player of the Year Vandenbrink, who averaged 16 points per game and 10 boards a night?
“We’ve been talking about that already,” Foster said. “We’re asking the sophomores, ‘who is going to step in and fill those shoes?’
“We feel we have the offensive power to do it, but someone’s got to step up and get those defensive and offensive boards.”
The good news is, Davis has a handful of candidates — most of whom now have varsity and playoff experience.
Center Emma Stenz grew in confidence as the season progressed, eventually earning all-DVC honors and finishing with averages of 10 points and seven rebounds per game.
Wings Rachael Allison and Katie Grahn, along with play-anywhere Caitlin Mazzoleni, created a trio that gave Foster flexibility to hit hard on the offensive end while providing a devastating half-court trap defense.
“Caitlin had a couple of offensive spurts that were simply amazing,” Foster said, recalling how her young players emerged. “Katie just came out of nowhere and played offense, defense. She had the outside shot … she could get the stop.
“And Rachael … She is going to be a force to be reckoned with next year. She got stuck in behind Ashleigh on the left side, but she progressed as the season went on. She’s got a nice jump shot, she plays defense and she can handle the ball.”
Stenz, Mazzoleni and Grahn are sophomores. Allison is a ninth-grader.
Then there’s Anna Belenis, another freshman …
“She was amazing, especially for her age,” Foster explained, saying that her ninth-grade point guard showed poise, a terrific feel for the floor and allowed the Blue Devils to bring the ball up court in safe fashion.
Belenis (who led DHS in assists) and Stenz joined Vandenbrink on the all-conference first team while Grahn earned honorable mention.
And the potential depth doesn’t end there.
Juniors Danielle Gantar, Lauren Cordano, Kira Prieditis and Jamie Kingsley join the 2013 junior varsity standouts — sophomore Alaina King and freshmen Sophia Seng and Kelly Goedde-Matthews — in the hunt for playing time next season.
“There are others who could surprise,” added Foster, the DVC Coach of the Year.
And competition should be keen. The coach hints she may not carry as many varsity players come fall.
Foster went with that 16-girl squad because, she says, she saw such a relentless work ethic among her players that it wouldn’t be fair to make deep cuts:
“So many were dedicated to the team. They worked hard all summer and kept coming out. I didn’t want to lose any because of that dedication, so I decided to keep them all,” she explained.
Becca Hassid, Daisy McKim, Danika Carlisle and Maya Tarasenko made up the rest of the seven-person senior class.
Considering the Devils had a lights-out defense, averaged 60 points a night and won the league title, is there anything Foster would have done differently?
“Not really. I can’t think of anything,” the coach says, letting her memory sift through one of the most successful DHS girls basketball seasons on record.
“Oh wait,” she suddenly remembered. “I’d like to have that last quarter against Kennedy back.”
Notes: How good was Vandenbrink? She played in 27 games, scored in double figures 25 times while recording 20 double-doubles. A unanimous league Player of the Year, she hit 50 percent of her two-point tries and 34 percent from beyond the arc (44 percent overall). … Foster thanked her JV coach Kalyca Seabrook and varsity assistant Heather Highshoe for their “hours of hard work and positive instruction” as she looks forward to working with many of her players during the summer in the Wildcats AAU program. … “Different girls stepped up in different games,” Foster added. “But our seniors like Tori and Kylie were special. When I wanted Tori to step up offensively, she did (18 points in one quarter in a win over Grant); when I wanted to her to step up defensively, she did. And Kylie … never giving up, always pestering their guards. She rarely got in trouble with the ball and was a calming influence.” … The five teams to beat Davis in 2013 — Armijo, Monterey Trail, Miramonte, Kennedy and Morro Bay — were collectively 116-30. All won at least 20 games.