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.