Morgan Bertsch wasn’t sure if she wanted to go to college to compete in track or basketball. Or maybe both.
The former Santa Rosa High School two-sport standout seems to have made the right choice.
In her redshirt freshman year at UC Davis, she has worked herself into a pivotal starting role on the basketball team, becoming the Aggies’ leading scorer and putting herself on pace to break the school’s freshman scoring record.
“It’s going great so far,” Bertsch, a 6-4 post player, said last week between games at two Utah schools.
It’s been a roller coaster season for the Aggies, who are 7-6 in pre-Big West action. After two losses, the team went on a six-game winning streak, but then lost its next four.
On Thursday, they downed Utah Valley, 59-55, in the last nonconference game before traveling to Northridge for the Big West opener on Jan. 7. Bertsch iced the game with two free throws with less than a second left.
But as the team’s performance has been streaky, Bertsch’s impact has steadily increased.
By the Aggies’ third game, Bertsch had broken into the starting lineup, and she responded by scoring 14 points on 7-of-12 field-goal shooting in 24 minutes.
In UC Davis’ past six games, Bertsch has been the team’s high scorer five times, including games of 25, 21 and 20 points and her first double-double (with 11 rebounds) against Florida A&M on Dec. 20.
She has already broken the top 10 of UC Davis freshman scoring leaders at the Division I level with 174 points, fewer than 100 points behind the top spot with 17 regular-season games to go. Through the first 13 games, Bertsch leads the Aggies with 13.4 points per game, hitting a remarkable 58 percent of her field-goal attempts (72 of 124), also a team high.
If Bertsch continues at her current pace of more than 13 points per game, she would become the highest-scoring UC Davis freshman in Division I. (The all-time leader is Carol Rische, who finished with 459 points in 1979-1980, when Davis was a DII school.)
“After the first couple games, I got my confidence, and I realize I can come out here and make an impact on this team,” Bertsch said. “After redshirting, I wasn’t sure what my role would be on this team. … But I’ve made a place for myself.”
At Santa Rosa High, Bertsch etched her name into several scoring record books.
As co-MVP for the North Bay League in her senior year, she broke the single-season scoring record once held by her sister, McKennan. In track, she was consistently ranked among the top high jumpers in the state and owns the school record in that event as well.
As one of the tallest girls hoops players in the Redwood Empire, Bertsch evolved into a nearly unstoppable center, scoring on tip-ins and put-backs and owning the boards.
Bertsch averaged 17-plus points and 11 rebounds a game in her senior year. By the end of the campaign, she had established school single-season records for points (536), rebounds (336) and blocked shots (139).
Bertsch was The Press Democrat’s All-Empire Large School Female Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2014, the All-Empire Large School Girls Basketball Co-Player of the Year (along with Panthers teammate Katie Daly) and was All-Empire in track three times.