2016-2017 Golden Valley girls basketball preview

Golden Valley’s Alexxys Banuelos (10) passes the ball around Royal High of Simi’s Becky Zoller (11) at Golden Valley on Tuesday. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Golden Valley’s fifth girls basketball coach in ten years likes taking on challenges.

Last season Golden Valley coach Galbert Conner turned around the girls basketball program at Monroe High School near North Hills. Now leading Golden Valley (0-1), Conner will attempt to lead a rebuilding program again. Five of Golden Valley’s top six scorers from last year will return this season, so Conner will have pieces to work with.

Over the past 10 seasons, Golden Valley has finished last in the Foothill League seven times, including last season when the Grizzlies went 8-19 overall and 1-9 in Foothill League play. The Grizzlies managed to make the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs last year, but ultimately lost 73-37 to South Hills High School in the first round.

Golden Valley had some recent success under former coach Kerri Garland. The school had winning records of 16-11 in 2014-2015 and 15-12 in 2013-2014. Golden Valley made the first round of the Division 2A playoffs in 2014-2015 and the second round in 2013-2014.

A repeat of such feats will require young players adjust to varsity on the fly and veterans continue to develop.

Golden Valley's Cassandra Ortiz (2) drives around Royal's Lexie Burningham (22) Tuesday. Katharine Lotze/Signal
Golden Valley’s Cassandra Ortiz (2) drives around Royal’s Lexie Burningham (22) Tuesday. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Connor said that of 11 players on his roster about six will play varsity basketball for the first time. Five of seven juniors from last year’s team returned this season, but Conner’s early challenge has been to turn role players into starters.

“We’re all adjusting to our new roles,” Connor said. “So that’s the transition we’re making. The transition is kind of tough, but I like the challenge.”

In his lone season at Monroe, Conner improved the team’s record from 4-13 overall (1-11 in East Valley League play) to 8-9 overall and 6-6 in league play.

After Golden Valley’s 50-41 season-opening loss to Royal High School of Simi Valley on Nov. 22, Conner noted Golden Valley missed a lot of layups.

“Once we fix that, we’ll be more competitive,” Conner said. “We’re going to work on a lot of fundamentals to make the game easier for them.”

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Because of the mix of experience and inexperience on the team, he described Golden Valley as an “inexperienced old team.” Still, pieces are there.

Leading scorer Devonae Hutchison returns for her senior year after transferring from Eastside High before last season. Hutchinson, a forward, averaged 11.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game last season. She also earned All-Santa Clarita Valley second-team honors.

Senior guard Serene Tyus trailed only Hutchison in scoring last season, averaging 10.5 points per game and earning All-SCV honorable-mention status. Junior guard Sage Peterson-Henry averaged 6.8 points per game, senior guard Alexxys Banuelos averaged six points per game last season, and sophomore guard Cassandra Ortiz averaged 3.2 points per game.

Banuelos said the Grizzlies’ defense felt a little slow running back from the offensive end during their first game.

Golden Valley's Serene Tyus (5) puts up a jump shot Tuesday. Katharine Lotze/Signal
Golden Valley’s Serene Tyus (5) puts up a jump shot Tuesday. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“We need to practice our boxing out, free throws and our shots because we know if we do that we can win games,” Banuelos said.

Tyus will play her fourth year on Golden Valley’s varsity team this year. Banuelos will play her third year on varsity. Tyus said they are taking it upon themselves to teach inexperienced players on the team.

“A lot of (players) just came up from (junior varsity) to varsity so there’s still that teaching process of knowing how to box out, knowing how to shoot and getting used to the varsity level,” Tyus said.

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