COACH: Elizabeth Tolleson, third season
LAST YEAR: 19-7 overall, 9-3 Western Athletic Conference (second place)
KEY RETURNERS: Jovanah Arrington, Shealyn Craven, Dayna Hansen, Kiara Job, Mele Tupouata, Shantel Perez, Janel Ortega
KEY LOSSES: Dani Hansen, Stephanie Cantu, Marisabel Carrillo
KEY ADDITIONS: Danielle Jenkins, Tiana Barron, Gianna Martin
Few high school basketball teams in the region had as good a 2011-12 campaign as the Patterson varsity girls, yet the Tigers felt as if they should have done more.
Patterson High ended the regular season with a 19-7 overall record a year after winning only 11 times. The team rose from third place to second in the Western Athletic Conference.
But the Tigers’ goal was to win the league crown, and third-year coach Elizabeth Tolleson and her players were also disappointed with their first-round exit from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
They hope to take those strides this season, which starts Nov. 26 with a home game against Modesto High.
“Making the playoffs for the first time in two seasons was a huge deal for the program,” Tolleson said. “Now that we have a taste of it, we want more. The first round is OK, but we have more than enough talent to be competitors deeper into the postseason.”
The Tigers already bonded during the summer, Tolleson said.
The team’s offseason program gave the players the opportunity not only to get to know their offensive and defensive strategies, but also to spend several weeks forging relationships with teammates.
“All but one girl on varsity participated in summer ball,” Tolleson said. “Open gym, weight room, summer league, tournaments, camps — the girls were always looking for ways to improve their game as individuals and as a team.”
Guards Jovanah Arrington, a junior, Shantel Perez, a senior, and junior forward Dayna Hansen are returning starters, along with sharp-shooting sophomore wing Shealyn Craven, who was a key reserve last year.
“Jovanah is a force to be reckoned with,” Tolleson said. “Hands down, she’s the biggest gym rat I have, and it is really paying off in the way she plays the game. She’ll be a very fun player to watch for us.”
Fellow returning athletes Kiara Job and Mele Tupouata, both junior post players, and senior guard Janel Ortega contribute to the Tigers’ store of experience.
“The seniors have been stepped up so much this summer, and it’s carrying over to the season,” Tolleson said. “They have developed their game and become great leaders.”
Patterson graduated just three seniors from the 2011 team — Dani Hansen, Stephanie Cantu and Marisabel Carrillo — leaving this year’s sophomores, juniors and seniors to assume an even bigger role this season.
Juniors Tiana Barron and Gianna Martin are two additions to the team from the junior varsity squad. Freshman Danielle Jenkins is also expected to contribute.
“Choosing a starting five is going to be difficult. I have to find a strong five that play well with each other,” Tolleson said. “Right now, we’re getting back into basketball shape and testing memory. It’s going to be challenging, but the players are responding by playing hard and asking lots of questions.”
Height, at least, seems unlikely to be a problem.
With most players above 5-foot-9 and back-court versatility, Tolleson envisions the potential for Patterson to turn mismatches into scoring opportunities.
”We have such a versatile team that it can play into our strength,” Tolleson said. “With so many different possibilities, I am going to push the team constantly and give all sorts of different options consideration. That is a big advantage over other teams.”
Tolleson said the Tigers would try to run a press on defense as much as possible. She said the squad has the potential to be the best in the league.
“We need to take care of business in the WAC,” Tolleson said. “We’ve let a few titles slip through our grasp, and I don’t think we enjoy the way second place tastes, so we are very hungry for a championship.”
To realize that potential, Tolleson said the Tigers must continue to work hard physically and maintain their focus mentally.
“I’m most excited about the girls realizing that putting forth extra time, effort and energy really does pay off,” Tolleson said. “They have worked so hard, and I want them to reap the benefits from it. There’s nothing more satisfying then seeing my girls succeed. They deserve it.”
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.