A key to the success of Hart High girls basketball’s “run-and-gun” offense is, well, that the ball finds the bottom of the net. That didn’t happen as often as the Indians would have liked last year. But coach Terra Palmer foresees the lid coming off the basket during the 2016-17 season when she deploys a deep, mostly interchangeable rotation of as many as 10 girls. “We have a bunch of kids who really have some skill,” Palmer said. Junior Annie Christofferson, a transfer from West Ranch, is probably the most talented scorer of the bunch.
She averaged 17.1 points per game over two varsity seasons with the Wildcats, shooting 43 percent from three-point range as a sophomore. Asked what Christofferson brings to the team, Hart senior Nicole Benz said, “The real question is what doesn’t she bring?” “She’s an amazing player on both sides of the ball,” Benz said of Christofferson, who can’t compete in game action until Jan. 2 due to CIF transfer rules. “Of course, she’s one of the best shooters around. It just adds a whole ’nother element to our team.” Benz, a standout player in her own right, averaged a team-high 12 points per game last season. Really, though, she embodies the 2016-17 Indians, a player who can do a little bit of everything. “Nicole is the smartest kid on the floor,” Palmer said. “… She can trail in and shoot, she can take people off the dribble, and you can play her with her back to the basket against kids her size or a little smaller and she’ll create a shot for herself and score.” The Indians averaged just 48 points a game last year, going 15-13 overall and 6-4 in the Foothill League, good for a third-place finish. They lost six times when an opponent failed to score 50 points — begging the question, isn’t this the up-tempo offense Palmer learned as a player and assistant coach at College of the Canyons under head coach Greg Herrick? “It’s supposed to be,” Palmer said with a laugh. “And it has looked that way in the past.” As recently as 2014-15, actually. The year Hart averaged 59 points a game on its way to the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A semifinals. This year’s team doesn’t necessarily have the star power of the 14-15 rendition — no Breze Kimble or Sophia Jacobsson. But Palmer says this season there isn’t a huge drop-off between her starters and the fourth and fifth girls off the bench. Hart returns its leading rebounder from a year ago, 5-foot-6 senior Natalea Daily, who Palmer expects to be more of an offensive threat this season. The Indians also bring back point guard Haylyn Nguyen, who has grown into the role of floor general. Sophomore Emily Munoz, who will start at shooting guard, will be the backup point guard and help propel Hart’s optimum playing pace. “She plays great defense. She likes to knock the ball loose and attack the basket,” Palmer said of Munoz. Junior Annie Cruz moved up from the junior varsity team over the summer and regularly made plays for the varsity before suffering an injury. She’s expected to play today when Hart opens its regular season against Clovis High. Freshman Aly Kaneshiro (the younger sister of former Hart boys basketball player Ryan Kaneshiro), sophomore Abby Copley and a handful of others are also expected to contribute. “She is capable of putting up 20 points per game,” Palmer said of Copley, a part-time starter last year. Hart’s hope is that the entire offense will trend upward, too.