Varsity basketball reflects on its stellar season

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Marcus Lopez shoots over a Pierce defender this season. (KS Winters Photography/Courtesy photo)

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The tides are changing for Winters High School varsity basketball. While a couple  of wins here or there used to be the benchmark for success, both the men’s and women’s varsity squads put together remarkable seasons that redefine what Warrior basketball is capable of.

For the varsity women, it all started with a win. Not just the first win of the season, but the team’s first win in over a year. This coming under the tutelage of new head coach Jeff Christian, and a roster without any true seniors (with Ieva Ziemele being the exception as a foreign exchanged student).

“There’s always that grind and period during a season where you say, ‘Man, is it over yet?’ because you experience so much emotion through competition and that comes with a price tag. But, with this year’s team I never felt that because of these incredible young ladies,” Christian said, talking about his team’s chemistry. “They love each other and I’ve never coached a team where the players were all in for each other all season long, and that’s what made this possibly my most memorable season. It was so much fun.”

As impressed as Christian was with his Warriors, he was equally impressed with the town they represented.

“The community support has been incredible. It’s what attracted me to come to Winters. The size of the community, the size of the school and knowing it’d be tight-knit and well-supported,” said Christian. “The value of community, I describe, as having each other’s back, standing shoulder to shoulder to go in and compete and support each other 100 percent regardless of any outcome. That’s definitely unique to the Winters community from an outsider’s perspective.”

With an overall record of 8-13, the Warriors are set to return next season to do even better. At the end of the year, Emily Dodic received the All-league award, while Ahtzire Figueroa took home the Coach’s award.

Meanwhile, the varsity men took care of business as well.

“I told my squad this was a fantastic season and that they’re setting up a foundation. The seniors did a great job at requiring effort from everyone to stay playing at a high level,” said head coach Brendan McShea. “The seniors were the point of the spear in getting these wins and buying in after not knowing me for that long. The guys returning are excited and hungry to prove this is the start of something and not just a great season.”

Much like the women, the men’s team shared incredible chemistry that radiated in victory and defeat.

“At the end of every practice we’d get in a circle and do ‘put-ups’ because it’s important to acknowledge what other guys are doing and say what you’re noticing the others are doing for the team,” said McShea. “One guy would get a put-up for explaining a drill, another for picking someone up when they were down or pushing someone to go further in practice.”

McShea praised all his seniors’ efforts as well in their 13-13 season: Joe Aguiar for receiving the Scholar-athlete award, his vast improvement over the year and bringing copious amounts of ‘juice’ to their games and practices, Diego Valencia for pushing the team and stoking their intensity, David Reyes for receiving All-conference and Matt Moore for being a team leader and taking more charges than anyone else.

The Coach’s award in the end-of-year banquet, however, went to junior, Logan Crabtree for showing up to play every day and his commitment to the team.

Daniel Ward, WHS Athletic Director, gave praise to McShea and Christian for their efforts in not only coaching athletes to hone their skills, but also in the overall character development and personal growth opportunities they provided.

“Winters High School is beyond fortunate to have Coach McShea and Coach Christian on our staff. The gym is an extension of the classroom and not only are they teaching our athletes the game of basketball, but they are also teaching character building, teamwork and other life lessons that will make them not only better basketball players, but more importantly, better people,” Ward said. “They are both amazing role models and I am excited to see where they lead our programs to in the next couple of years.”

Although the basketball seasons are over, the Winters Warriors will undoubtedly return to build upon the skills and success they earned this year.

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