Benefield: Cardinal Newman girls expect to dominate on basketball court
They appear different on the basketball court. Cardinal Newman senior Avery Cargill is almost expressionless, running the point like it’s her job. Cargill’s backcourt partner has a different look. Junior Anya Choice looks like she could break out into laughter at any moment.
But together, this duo, dynamic as all get-out, is looking to lead their team to another CIF state championship title run.
Cargill runs the half-court offense like a boss. She is the boss. She has been Cardinal Newman’s starting point guard since the first game of her freshman year.
“Avery has been like a coach on the floor since she was a freshman,” Cardinal Newman coach Monica Mertle said. “She could lead a practice.”
In the three-plus seasons that Cargill has run the point, the Cardinals have gone on a phenomenal run. The Cardinals won the CIF Division 4 state championship in 2016 when she was a freshman. They won the North Coast Section Division 4 title in 2017 before being ousted one game short of the CIF Open Division title game.
Last season they were runners-up in the NCS Division 3 tournament and fell in the first round of the state Open Division to St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Their 75-26 win over Santa Rosa Friday night gave the Cardinals their 100th win since Cargill joined the team, for a 100-19 record. They move to 12-4 overall and 3-0 in the North Bay League-Oak Division. The Cardinals have not lost a league game since Jan. 24, 2014. “She just has tremendous experience,” Mertle said. “She really is that veteran leader.”
But where Cargill is the calm, collected surgeon, her backcourt partner is the sparkle.
“She is an emotional leader,” Mertle said of Choice. “She gets excited. Her enthusiasm is contagious.”
And her play is an embodiment of that enthusiasm.
“She is really quick, a lot quicker than I am, so she uses that to her advantage,” Cargill said of her teammate. “She attacks really well, finishes really well.”
She also gets it done. Choice scored her 1,000th point on Dec. 22 in the Cardinals’ 44-40 loss to Heritage High. She reached that mark faster than any player in program history.
“She’s a great slasher,” Mertle said. “But we have had a lot of discussions about the importance of being multidimensional, so over the last couple of years, she has really worked hard to develop her perimeter shot.”
And the thing these two have in common?
“I think they are the same in that they both want to win. That unites them,” Mertle said.
On a team that looks like it plays five guards at one time, Cargill and Choice are the playmakers. They are the pair that make the Cardinals go.
Choice is averaging nearly 22 points and seven rebounds per game. She is also adding four assists per contest.
Cargill is putting up an average of 17 points, six assists and 2.5 steals.
Rounding out the starting five, junior Emma Nordby averages three points and five rebounds per game, sophomore Aysia Dural averages five points and five rebounds per game and junior Christina Bacci averages eight points per game.
There is another stat worth noting: The tallest member of the starting five — the tallest player on the team, in fact — stands at 5 feet, 9 inches.