The Canyon High girls basketball team wants nothing more than to surpass last year’s playoff run, which ended in the second round of the CIF state tournament.
“We want to get there really bad,” said shooting guard Daisy Cardenas, who helped the Cowboys finish runner-up in the Southern Section’s Division 2AA last year. “Since we got there last year, we know how much it takes and we know how much hard work you have to put in. We were short of winning so we know we have to work a little bit harder to get a better outcome.”
This year, the Cowboys will be competing in Division 1AA, which will further necessitate a gritty work ethic.
MORE Canyon: New day, new look for Cowboys boys basketball
“We’re with the big dogs now,” said third-year coach Jessica Haayer. “It’s kind of good for them because sometimes when they get that far you worry that their egos are going to take over. But then we’ve been bumped up to division 1 now, so I think it’s kind of humbled them.
“They’re like, oh god, it’s not going to be that easy anymore.”
Fortunately, the team is returning 12 of 15 players from last year’s squad, seven of which are seniors.
Returning All-CIF player Rachel Bowers averaged 11.4 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game, while All-SCV First Team honoree Talia Taufaasau averaged 14.5 ppg. Both are juniors.
Taufaasau and Bowers are backed up by a deep bench, which includes Cardenas, who brings a high basketball IQ and strong three-point shooting abilities, as well as seniors Angelina Puno, Alaina Garcia and Krystal Amato.
“We have more people we can put in the game and not be able to lose out on an opportunity,” Cardenas said. “Knowing that helps us when we play our game, so we know we can always come out strong.”
The Cowboys have a fast offense that can pressure opponents and a quick defense that can do the same.
“This year we’re more defensive-oriented,” Taufaasau said. “We like to get steals, fastbreak, we like to base what we do on offense off of what we do on the defensive end.”
To get Canyon’s chemistry as fluid as possible before heading into Foothill League play, in which the squad finished in second place behind an undefeated Valencia last year, the preleague schedule is loaded with challenging tournaments, including the Palisades Beach Invitational Tournament and the Nike Tournament of Champions, which is held in Phoenix, Arizona.
“It’s game by game this year,” Haayer said. “We have a really tough schedule. We did it on purpose because this is a good team and I wanted them to be challenged. I think they’re excited. Every game in Division 1, you really have to compete.”