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Prep basketball stars set new marks at Healdsburg, Piner

The North Bay League recently ended its shortened, pandemic-affected basketball season without crowning a league champion, playing a postseason tournament, giving out all-league honors or participating in the North Coast Section playoffs, which were canceled this year.

Despite the unusual spring campaign, some student-athletes still managed to turn in remarkable performances and reach notable milestones.

Healdsburg senior shooting guard Dylan Hayman finished his high school career in second place for all-time career points (1,842) among large schools in Sonoma County, while Piner junior point guard Sarah Tait became the all-time leading scorer (1,039 points) in the Prospectors’ girls basketball program.

The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Hayman, who will graduate next week, averaged 18.4 points per game over his four-year varsity career. With the league schedule 10 games shorter this year, Hayman came up short of the overall Sonoma County large-school scoring record of 1,992 points set by Ukiah’s Kyle Heath in 1998 but broke his own school’s 35-year-old career scoring record.

If Hayman would have scored his average for this year (25.5 points per game) in those 10 games, he would have finished with a projected 2,100 points and easily broken Heath’s record.

“If Hayman had our full season this year, even if we did not make the playoffs, he would have another 10 games and would almost certainly — barring a catastrophic injury — shatter that record,” Healdsburg coach Yasha Mokaram said. “He is such a hard worker. He does anything it takes. He is such a basketball junkie.”

Hayman, 17, amassed an array of heady statistics in his senior year. In addition to his scoring average, he collected 12.5 rebounds per game, shot 52% from the floor, 35% from the three-point line and 81% from the free-throw line.

During Hayman’s tenure on the varsity squad, the Greyhounds had a resurgence in their basketball program. This season Healdsburg was 14-2 overall, finishing 7-1 in the NBL-Oak Division for second in the standings.

“I really improved my shot this year. During quarantine, I got my shot dialed in,” Hayman said. “This year I really picked up my three-point shooting. It helps the rest of my game if I can hit the three — it really opens my game up.”

Hayman, who also plays club ball with the North Bay Basketball Academy, said his goal is to play at the NCAA Division I level. He is looking at going to an academy prep school on the East Coast to bolster his recruitment potential for a Division I program.

“I think Dylan is good enough to play Division I. Mid-major schools are realistic for him,” Mokaram said. “It wouldn’t shock me if he made a Pac-12 school.”

Teammates voted team captain Hayman the “hardest worker,” “most coachable” and “best teammate” on the squad.

“It’s nice that my teammates think I am a good teammate. I am more of a leader then a best friend to my teammates,” Hayman said. “I push my teammates and they know that I am trying to make them better.”

Being the go-to scorer on the Greyhounds led opponents to focus on Hayman, often translating to him having to battle against physical defenses.

“Teams try and prevent me from catching the ball,” he said. “On my arms, I had scratches from defenders holding on to me. I had to watch myself from pushing back and not getting offensive fouls.”

Mokaram said opponents “played football” with Hayman on the court and would body him and foul him in an attempt to wear him down and get him off his game.

“Dylan gets banged up. He has bruises and scratches after every game, but he never complains,” Mokaram said. “He is really strong. He is a pretty tough kid.”

It’s not just Hayman’s offensive game that sticks out but his defensive skills as well.

“Dylan is an extremely underrated defender,” Mokaram said. “His length is pretty rare for Sonoma County. He can defend the perimeter. He is very tightfisted on defense.”

Hayman — who has a 3.9 overall high school GPA and wants to study viticulture or agribusiness in college — had to overcome some serious adversity during his sophomore year when he had a double brain infection called meningoencephalitis, causing seizures and strokelike symptoms. Several years ago he had a seizure he didn’t come out of and was flown to UCSF in a medically induced coma and hospitalized for five days. He eventually came out of the coma and recovered, but his sophomore basketball season was greatly impacted.

“It was tough to miss so many games that year and pretty much not be myself on the court for the last half of the year,” Hayman said. “Ever since then I definitely appreciate every day more than I did before and cherish every moment on the court because I know what it is like for that to be taken away.”

Hayman was diagnosed with epilepsy but has not had a seizure since that sophomore episode and he is off medication. He leaves behind a strong legacy at Healdsburg as he moves on to his next chapter on the court and in life.

“I’ve been coaching basketball for 25 years and Dylan stood out as a special player early on,” said Matt Vogensen, Hayman’s coach from third through eighth grades. “Once Dylan hit fifth grade he really started to perform at a very high level. He led us to championships at every level leading up to high school. He changed the face of Healdsburg basketball.”

At Piner High, Tait, 16, has shattered the west Santa Rosa school’s girls scoring record after three years on varsity. No other player in program history has reached 1,000 points and Tait still has her senior season next year to add to her 1,039 career points.

“Sarah has the ball in her hands 85-90% of the time (on offense),” Piner coach Marc Anderson said. “With the game on the line, she absolutely wants the ball and I wouldn’t want it in anyone else’s hands.”

The 5-foot-8 Tait has been named the team MVP in her first three years. She was also named to the NBL-Redwood Division all-league first team her freshman and sophomore years. This season she averaged 22.5 points scoring per game, 10.2 rebounds and six assists. She averages 18.5 points scoring per game over her three years as a Prospector.

“I focus a lot on offensive rebounds and put-backs,” Tait said. “I like going into the lane. You have to not be afraid of contact.”

Tait, who has a higher-than-4.0 high school career GPA, also plays on the NorCal West Coast Elite travel team. She said she wants to play ball in college and is hoping for an athletic scholarship to an NCAA Division I school but would play in lower divisions as well. She said she wants to major in criminal justice and minor in business in college.

“Sarah is preparing herself for college basketball, whatever the division. I believe she can get a scholarship. There are going to be schools out there that are definitely interested in her,” Anderson said. “She gets a lot of exposure in travel ball.”

Anderson said Tait, the team captain, leads by example, mentors younger players and consistently looks to expand her basketball skill set.

“She is always listening and willing to learn. She asks intelligent questions. She is always willing to do more with her skill level,” Anderson said. “I ask Sarah to do a lot on both sides of the ball. She steps up.”

Tait said the best part of her game is “my ability to shoot and score and the energy I bring to the team.”

She adds that she considers herself more of a smart defender than a scrappy one. She said she likes to trap on defense. The Piner offense is built around Tait scoring and being the floor general.

“I pretty much get double-teamed every game. Most of the time I can dribble through the trap,” Tait said. “I am a confident shooter. My favorite thing is shooting three-pointers.”

Piner only has one senior, so the core of this year’s team is likely returning next season, including Tait. The Prospectors finished 4-5 overall and 2-3 in league for third place.

“I felt like we could have made it far this year in the playoffs if there were playoffs,” Tait said. “With a lot of offseason work, we could be a lot better next year.”

Tait said her game progressed a lot while frequently playing ball outside during the pandemic. She said she hit the weight room hard in the offseason.

“Sarah is the best player I have ever coached” over 10 years, Anderson said. “She has a crazed work ethic in the classroom and the court. The sky is the limit for her right now as long as she does it the right way.”

Piner has not won a girls basketball league title since 1977 and Anderson said he hopes the era of the Prospectors program being overlooked is in the past with the core team he has now, led by Tait.

“We have some hardworking, dedicated girls that are a family,” Anderson said. “Sarah has elevated us to a different level than where the Piner girls basketball program was before. She has a personal challenge to leave as big of a mark on this program as she can.”

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