With the recent success of Reno, there hasn’t been much reason optimism for competing girls basketball programs in Northern Nevada.
The Huskies have been the best team in the region and it hasn’t been close. They won two-straight state titles before getting upset in last year’s DI North title game by Bishop Manogue. Led by Oregon commit Mallory McGwire, the Huskies are once again a favorite to win the state title this February.
Reed, however, is an outlier in the Reno-created gloom, especially in the seasons to come. That hope comes from Taylor Johnson and Serene Townsell-Williams. Both are sophomores. Both started as freshmen. Both have already been named team captains.
“The nice thing about them doing it (being captains) this young (is) by the time they’re seniors, I don’t think I even (will) have to coach,” Reed coach Sara Schopper-Ramirez said. “They’re doing a really good job. The girls are responding to them and they’re setting the tone.”
The sophomore standouts, who have played together since third grade on numerous teams, jumped on to the scene last year. Coaches in Northern Nevada now know they are stuck dealing with the in-sync tandem for two more full seasons.
“I mean Serene and I have been playing together since third grade so pretty much telepathically, we know what to do with each other,” Johnson said. “We definitely know how each other play, what our strongest places are on the court. So it’s super awesome that we play together (at Reed).”
Townsell-Williams, the cousin of former Reed star Gabby Williams who is now playing at UConn, the No. 1 team in the nation, was named to the all-region squad last year after averaging 11.4 points per game—the second highest total on the team.
Johnson scored 8.9 point per game and landed on the High Desert League second team.
Despite the similarities in success and their familiarity after playing together for going on eight years, the two have contradicting styles. That’s what makes them tough to defend.
Johnson is a sharpshooter who led the team with 40 triples last season, although Schopper-Ramirez said she hopes see the shooting guard get more aggressive going to the rim as she becomes more experienced.
Townsell-Williams, who Schopper-Ramirez calls one of the fastest players in the region, creates her scoring opportunities by attacking the basket off the dribble.
After running the offense much of last season, the pair is adding another weapon to their already-dangerous arsenal. Confidence.
“I think it’s easier because we were varsity last year,” Townsell-Williams said. “I think it’s more knowledge-based confidence. We know more things. We know what’s going on.”
What’s going on is the resurgence of a program that has won before.
The Raiders won the state title, over Reno, in the 2011-12 season and have gone a combined 49-16 in the three years that have followed, finishing second to Reno in the HDL each year.
While the immediate focus is on this year, it would be hard not to think about the program’s potential. Reed does not have a single senior on its roster and is still one of the stronger teams in Northern Nevada. A strong freshman class lurks behind Johnson and Townsell-Williams.
“We definitely know that this is big,” Johnson said.
The Raiders can’t win games in 2018 (Johnson and Townsell’s senior year) during the 2015-16 season, but they can certainly set themselves up. And that’s what they’re doing.
Even Schopper-Ramirez has let herself think of the possibilities. She’s not aiming low.
“I know we shouldn’t be saying, but I think if they continue the way they’re going and if they get their team on the same page, they possibly could look at a regional and state title their senior year,” Schopper-Ramirez said. “That’s the goal for us right now, compete this year, next year we want to be really good, the year after that, we want to be No. 1. That’s it.”
Reno has been the team to beat and that isn’t going to change this year.
But Reed, led by a pair of star sophomores, could soon be the squad draining optimism from teams throughout Northern Nevada.