Junior forward Paysn Leavitt begins to turn to the basket for an inside shot against visiting Youngker during the Wickenburg High School girls basketball team’s scrimmage last week. Leavitt is one of nine returnees from last year’s team.
By Kevin Cloe
That’s how third-year coach Bill Root last week described how he feels about his Wickenburg High School girls basketball team for this coming winter season.
Along with having 10 freshmen participating in preseason practices, Coach Root is returning nine of his 13 girls who saw varsity action last year when the Lady Wranglers suffered through a 5-22 won-lost season that included a 3-7 fourth-place finish in the six-team 3A West Region standings. He now has 21 girls in the program, compared to the 10 he had through most of last year.
Included in the nine returnees are sophomore guards Katie Cushman and Clare Peterson, who led the team last year with 7.6 and 7.3 average points per game, respectively. Then there is 5-foot-8 senior forward Sadie White (4.6 scoring average last year) and 5-6 junior forward Paysn Leavitt (5.1 average last year), who are expected to also provide some physical dominance under the backboards. White missed the second half of the season last year due to an injury.
The final piece of the anticipated starting lineup is 5–11 sophomore center Mercy Uldrickson, who saw limited action at the varsity level last season as a freshman but picked up valuable experience in junior varsity contests last year.
Those five accounted for 25.3 of the team’s 27.4 points per game average last year — and that lineup is still young, consisting of one senior, one junior, and three sophomores.
Then there are a few girls on the bench who Coach Root expects will make significant contributions throughout the season.
“We now have four players who can shoot 3s,” he reported, citing the additional points that can be produced with the long-range shots.
Besides Cushman and Peterson providing most of the 3-point shots like they did last year, Coach Root noted that junior Marla Olson and sophomore Shayla Dalley also have improved their 3-point shooting.
“Eight of the girls participated in camp this summer,” he said. “So we already see their improvements.”
The remainder of the varsity roster includes senior Alexa Murillo, and juniors Kelsey Hershkowitz, McKenzie Dermody and Reyna Parra.
So, yes, there are only two seniors on this year’s varsity roster, which means the improvements experienced this year will continue to carry over to at least the next three years.
The Lady Wranglers, in preparing for this year’s competition, hosted a scrimmage last week against larger school Youngker of Buckeye in a regulation contest that didn’t keep score. They open their season with four home games: Phoenix Bourgade Catholic at 5:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Dec. 3; Camp Verde at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6; Canyon View at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 9; and Coronado at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11. Then they will host their five-team Wrangler Cage Classic tournament on Friday Dec. 13.
Last year, they split their two games against Bourgade, losing 44-32 and winning 30-23, and then lost to Coronado (46-33) and Camp Verde (45-28) in early season contests.