The Cougars were right there last year.
Yes, they finished 7-20 overall, 4-12 in the former DI North (now 4A North for a second time). And yes, the .250 league winning percentage put them in fifth place in the High Desert League – five games out of the playoff picture.
But consider this: Spanish Springs lost six games by five points or fewer and only scored five points less than its opponent, on average, over the course of the season. That’s a few bounces a game.
“We lost a lot of close games last year,” fourth-year Spanish Springs coach Art Cardenas said. “I’m hoping we learn from that. I’ve been telling them ‘learn from your mistakes, get better from that.’”
Most of his team will have the opportunity to learn from last year because most of last year’s team is back.
Leading scorers Anhelica Shanrock (honorable mention last year) and Alysa Domingues are both back for their senior years as part of a seven-senior class. Forward Kalli Prendergast (also honorable mention last year) returns for her senior year as well.
Cardenas said with so much experience on the roster for the 2016-17 season, the team’s chemistry has been clear throughout preseason practices.
“They’re doing a great job working together, working hard,” he said. “It looks like there’s more trust in each other this year. They’re backing each other up. They’re getting after it, they’re being competitive, but they’re also helping each other … Team unity looks like it’s there this year.”
Unsurprisingly, Shanrock and Domingues will carry the bulk of the load offensively this season. Shanrock did most of her damage with the jump shot last season, but has worked on going to the rim off the dribble.
“She’s being more aggressive, attacking the basket,” Cardenas said. “I’m looking for her to do a little bit of both (shoot and drive).”
Like most basketball coaches, Cardenas consistently talks about defense. After watching game film over the offseason, he didn’t like what he saw.
There was too much watching. The team was too soft in the middle. Intensity was lacking.
He plans to change that this winter, start winning the close games, and potentially make a run at a postseason berth.
“I think we’ll take a few steps up,” he said. “They’ve all put some time in over the summer. But until we start playing … you see one thing in practice and don’t know if it carries over to games. I think we’ll be better.”
4A North Schedule
Nov. 29 vs Wooster
Dec. 6 at Carson
Dec. 15 vs Douglas
Dec. 16 vs Galena
Jan. 3 at Damonte Ranch
Jan. 6 at Bishop Manogue
Jan. 10 vs McQueen
Jan. 13 vs North Valleys
Jan. 17 at Hug
Jan. 20 vs Reno
Jan. 24 vs Reed
Jan. 27 at McQueen
Jan. 31 at North Valleys
Feb. 3 vs Hug
Feb. 7 at Reno
Feb. 10 at Reed