At 13-3, Davis High girls basketball is enjoying its best 16-game record since the days of All-American Blue Devil Denise Curry in the 1970s.
An encouraging mix of experience and youth, DHS — after its final tune-up victory over Yuba City on Saturday — appears ready to put up a fuss in Delta Valley Conference play.
On paper, its seems like a two-team race for the league championship.
“I absolutely think we can win it,” second-year Devil head coach Karen Foster told The Enterprise. “We have to match up against Monterey Trail … and that’s the biggest challenge. But, yes, I feel we have a good chance.”
Coming off of a 10-16 season, Davis has retooled with two freshmen; two emerging, returning sophomores; and a host of senior leaders, led by all-business Ashleigh Vandenbrink.
While Vandenbrink, who can play anywhere on the court, continues to excel, ninth-graders Rachael Allison and Anna Belenis seem to be just what the doctor ordered …
“My two freshmen are the hardest-working players … no disrespect to anybody else,” Foster said. “Everyone is working hard, but they bring it every practice, every game. They listen, they always have a great attitude — and they work unbelievably hard.”
Belenis leads the team in assists and has been part of a recent starting lineup that includes classmate Allison, co-captains Tori Powell and Vandenbrink and sophomore post player Emma Stenz.
Quickly off the bench can come a host of combinations, with sophomore wing Caitlin Mazzoleni, senior guards Kylie Drexel and Becca Hassid and juniors Katie Grahn and Danielle Gantar all bringing energy.
Foster’s early concern, her team’s physical play inside, is an area of improvement.
“We’re getting there,” said the former Air Force veteran. “We’ve brought in (former DHS boys’ assistant George Sousa) to work with their post moves. They seem to understand now with the reps they’re getting.
“We’re playing much stronger (in the paint).”
With Monterey Trail, Grant and Franklin in the DVC, there’s going to be a lot of banging going on under the basket. Here’s a look at the other conference teams hoping to be the last girls standing:
Elk Grove (6-10) — Going 11-16 last season and struggling to score early this winter, the Thundering Herd isn’t expected to make much noise in DVC play.
Returning forward Naomi Alexander, a 5-foot-9 junior, has done a solid job defensively and is Elk Grove’s leading rebounding with seven a night.
And Davis isn’t the only squad with terrific freshmen. The Herd’s ninth-grader Madison Wong is getting her feet (20 points in a recent 45-36 win over Cordova) and has won the starting point guard spot.
But The Grove hasn’t broken 40 points in 11 games and has lost big to Inderkum and Rosemont, two schools the Blue Devils hammered in nonconference play.
Coach: Greg LeCount, first season. Last year: 11-16. Versus Davis last season: L 49-45; L 57-37. Sac-Joaquin Section ranking by MaxPreps: 72.
Franklin (8-8) – Balanced scoring from a solid lineup has allowed the Wildcats to break even this far.
Veterans Madison Wheeler, Jayla Henderson, Elizabeth Evangelista, Lindsey Beford and Dominique Vernon all average between 7 and 10 points a game.
But height is a problem as 5-8 forward Henderson is being asked to patrol the middle. She averages eight boards per outing to lead Franklin.
Like DHS, the Wildcats have laid waste to Inderkum and Natomas this year, but Rosemont — which the Devils beat — took a 10-point decision from FHS.
Coach: Robert Johnson. Last year: 13-14. Versus Davis: W 51-38; W 58-46. SJS rank: 42.
Grant (8-7) — The Pacers didn’t like how 2011-12 ended, with a 76-36 first-round playoff thrashing at the hands of Oak Ridge.
Coach David Kendrick has found his girls some hard-core opponents this season — and Grant has acquitted itself well.
In going 2-1 in the San Francisco West Coast Jamboree, the Pacers showed flashes of the brilliance that earned them that playoff berth last winter. Two of Grant’s losses are to outstanding Christian schools, Brookside and Bradshaw (their records a combined 23-4).
DHS mentor Foster cautions that this team could be the league’s surprise package: “They still have their two powerhouses.”
Foster is alluding to junior forward Raynell Lynn and senior guard Kamari Hunter. The 6-1 Lynn is hitting for 13 ppg and has an eight-rebound average, while Hunter is a playmaker from the point.
Grant likes to work the ball inside, especially since its 3-point shooting has been dismal (22-of-121).
Coach: David Kendrick. Last year: 17-11. Versus Davis: W 50-47; W 62-41. SJS rank: 28.
Laguna Creek (4-9) — Two of the Cardinals’ four wins are against hapless Valley (2-10) and another came Friday over Cristo Rey of Sacramento, a squad that went 1-25 last season.
LCHS has been getting killed on the boards, with Sapna Sahota’s five caroms a game leading the Cards. But with sophomore guard Arianna Alvarez showing some hops and scoring of late (15 ppg and 18 assists in her last five outings), Laguna could pop up when least expected — as they did last season when they split their two games with the Blue Devils.
Coach: Bridgett Singleton. Last year: 8-16. Versus Davis: L 50-42; W 52-47. SJS rank: 110.
Monterey Trail (11-6) — As the defending DVC champs, the Mustangs seemingly haven’t missed a step with the graduation of center Summayyah Wiggins and point guard Neha Kappor.
Part of the reason for that has been senior Qiana Levy, who has been a mad bomber. The guard is averaging 17 ppg and has hit 17-of-43 from beyond the arc.
Junior Jasmine Redmon (15 ppg including 13-of-38 from long range) and sophomore play-caller Tiara Webb (10 ppg and five assists a night) also have filled the graduation void.
The Mustangs went 2-1 in the West Coast Jamboree, and a 44-22 victory over Bishop McGuinness of North Carolina gave a sneak peek at how scary the Monterey Trail defense can be.
Coach: Louie Corpuz. Last year: 22-6, 9-1 in DVC. Versus Davis: W 55-47; W 63-34. SJS rank: 16.
Notes: MaxPreps.com, the online national high school sports clearinghouse, ranks the Blue Devils 18th in the section (they’re also rated 156th in the state). … When the DVC campaign opens Tuesday, Davis will host Elk Grove while Monterey Trail gets an early test from visiting Grant. Laguna Creek entertains Franklin. … The Devils last won the conference just two years ago. Behind the Wilkins twins and interim coach (and school athletic director) Dennis Foster, DHS went 10-0 in the DVC before Pleasant Grove lowered the boom, 65-51, in the first playoff round.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.