Sonoma Academy girls basketball coach Kevin Christensen describes his team as both young and experienced.


It’s true. The 10-girl Coyote roster is more than half underclassmen: three seniors, a junior and six sophomores. But of those second-year players, five played on varsity last year as freshmen.

The relative youth of the team, coupled with the graduation of last year’s All-Empire Small School Player of the Year Savannah Stoughton, might spell “rebuilding year” for a lot of teams. Led by Stoughton’s 21-point average, that Coyotes team won the North Central League II championship with a 13-1 record and finished 17-4 overall.

Yet despite the turnover, this year is shaping up to be just as successful.

Tuesday night, Sonoma Academy defeated host Roseland University Prep 53-27 to remain 7-0, alone atop the NCL II, and 16-0 overall. Roseland fell to 6-10 and 2-4.

Senior Stacey Olson led the Coyotes with 15 points, all on 3-point shots, including one her coach called “Steph Curry like.” Clara Spars added 10 while Gabrielle Tukman and Lauren Reed each added 9.

Junior Gaby Roldan led the Knights with 9 points.

“A lot of the girls thought it was going to be a down year,” Christensen said of his Sonoma Academy team. “Savannah scored close to 40 percent of our points last year. They came in not knowing who was going to take over that scoring. But it’s been a combination of everyone.”

It’s fortunate they were already in that mindset. Because just last week, the team took another potentially devastating blow.

All-around athlete Chloe Colbert, a second-team All-Empire basketball player last year and a two-time All-Empire soccer Player of the Year, broke her ankle a week ago in a win over Tomales and is out for the season.

On Tuesday, she cheered her team on from a wheelchair, her right ankle in a cast propped up in front of her after surgery on Friday.

“We’ve almost surprised ourselves,” she said of the unbeaten start. “To be undefeated and have such good results, it’s exciting to see it continue. Now that I can’t play, I can be one of the fans.”

Christensen said losing Colbert so suddenly was a shock, but one that allows someone else to step up and compete for more time.

Filling the role of a four-year starting point guard is no easy task.

“She was a tremendous contributor for us,” the coach said. “Replacing her ball-handling and leadership on the court will be impossible. But we’ll be forced to dig it out. We just have to make an adjustment. No one person is going to fill that role.”

In fact, several look to take up the slack. Sophomore Tristen Sherley will handle much of the point-guard duties, as she did Tuesday.

Olson, a senior shooting guard and wing player, has stood out in two key league wins, scoring 14 and 12 points. Spars, a senior center, continues to be a force inside, Christensen said.

And sophomore Reed has been the team’s leading scorer, averaging 12 points a game. Reed started as a freshman, so Christensen knew how talented she is.

In addition to Reed, three players are averaging just under 10 points a game for the Coyotes.

“We’re a very, very balanced team. Obviously, it shows in our record,” Christensen said. “We just seem to find a way every, single time. Teams take something away, and we adjust.”

The Coyotes have had relative ease in winning all 16 games so far, though one was a one-point win over College Prep of Oakland and by two points over International of San Francisco. Their average margin of victory is 18 points.

“The thing that keeps us in the game when we struggle offensively is that we play defense very well,” Christensen said. The Coyotes had more than a dozen steals against Roseland.

The Coyotes held St. Vincent to 26 points and played tight enough on Upper Lake’s Natalie Karlsson, who averages 22 points per game, to keep her to seven points in a 49-36 Sonoma Academy win last week.

While there has been some talk about an undefeated season, Christensen said it’s not a team goal.

“One of the great things about our team is we’re always bringing our higher level of intensity, as opposed to some who might want to tone it down for a certain game,” Spars said. “Part of that is Kevin’s coaching, and part is the girls. Complacency is not an aspect of our team.”

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.