Losing three key pieces that helped runs to Conference 2A championship semifinals the last two seasons does not change much for the 2017-18 season.
Not for Sedona Red Rock High School girls basketball coach Dave Moncibaez. And not when the Scorpions return senior guard Liza Westervelt, last year’s Central Region Player of the Year, and three other vital pieces from those deep playoff runs: Senior guard Jo Toscano, senior forward Brittany Medel and sophomore guard/forward Mary Westervelt.
“We try to reload and hopefully everybody stays healthy and we try to get back to that level, and these girls have the potential to get there,” Moncibaez said. “I don’t look at this season any different than the last two here at Sedona.
“I really don’t plan on skipping a beat.”
Forwards Sophia Perry and Hannah Ringel are gone through graduation. Senior guard Chenoa Crans, who has dealt with an ongoing hip injury, is a maybe.
But the plan remains the same: Play a run-and-gun style, fueled by a three-quarter-court press and strong lungs.
The only difference will be the players on the floor, and for some, their positions. At least one of the newcomers will have to take on a starting role with no varsity experience, and certainly others will be called upon to give starters a rest.
Moncibaez said Mary Westervelt will play more in the post than before, and Medel runs the floor well, too. Liza Westervelt and Toscano are proven sharpshooters.
On one hand, speed is their biggest strength, but on the other, adjusting to new positions is the weakness. Uniting the two will be what makes everything work.
Therein lies Moncibaez’s main job, to gel it all together and prepare the Scorpions to play at that level and in those positions.
“We’ve got some younger girls who can fill in some roles and with Mary down there, I really don’t think we’re going to miss that much of a beat. It’s just getting up to that level again,” he said. “It’s hard to compare the beginning of the season with the end of our last season because we’re just not there as a team yet, but the intentions are positive and I know we’ll get there.”
The team’s first taste of competition came in a scrimmage on Friday, Nov. 22, against Grand Canyon High School. With few players, everyone played a lot of minutes, helping get the players into shape, see what they do well and what needs to be worked on.
“I’m more pleased than I thought I’d be,” Moncibaez said after the scrimmage. “When we ran the floor we looked just as good as we had at this point last year.”
During some stretches the team executed its press well, scoring a number of transition layups. That defense will be another determining factor.
“We really need to have our press perfect, we really need to execute it. That was a big thing last year and we definitely need to work on it this year,” Liza Westervelt said.
An All-Arizona Republic pick for Conference 2A last season, she added that she will have to drive to the hoop and rebound more. Perimeter shooting will have to be sure-fire as well.
Toscano, who played the sixth man role to a Second Team All-Central Region selection in 2016-17, acknowledged she will have to bring back the accurate shooting and a tougher mentality on defense. Medel and Mary Westervelt return as Honorable Mention picks.
Their roles on the court go further than just scoring points and getting stops.
“Really I’m looking for Liza, Mary, Jo and Brittany for that leadership. They’ve been there, they’ve seen almost the end,” Moncibaez said. “They know what it takes to get there.”
Getting the players to buy in to the system, grow together and support one another to become a family unit was listed as his biggest goal.
Having won the Central Region the last two seasons, he discussed the target placed on the team’s back.
The Scorpions’ biggest challenge to claim a third title will likely be Verde Valley rival Camp Verde High School.
Despite its youth, the team carries a full year of varsity experience under its belt, closing the gap that much more.
These goals almost did not even exist. Considering the fact that with four returners and an uncertain number of newcomers, there almost was not even a team to play.
“Considering that we weren’t going to have a team, possibly, to having one, that’s a surprise in itself,” Moncibaez said.
They will also play against big competition in the form of 6A, 5A and 4A teams when it hosts the eight-team Red Rock Hoops Classic on Dec. 1 and 2. More tough opponents will be at the Prescott Lady Badgers Winter Classic on Dec. 29 and 30, which it won last year.
The first game of the season is at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, at home against Chino Valley High School.
|[November through the middle of December]|
Nov. 28, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 1 and 2
Dec. 13, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 15, 5:30 p.m.