Music played as the ball zipped around the court at the Henry Mayo Fitness and Health Center, finding its way into the hand of each player before a shot went up.
Last year at this time, the scene at a Trinity Classical Academy girl’s basketball practice would have been different. The ball would reside primarily in the hands of a couple players, forcing those two to create their own offense.
This is the difference under first-year head coach Daniel Hebert, whose emphasis is on executing plays rather than relying on stars.
“We have people shooting shots who last year didn’t shoot much,” said Hebert, whose team is off to a 5-1 start. “We’re just trying to get the ball into everyone’s hands. That way, opponents can’t just stop one or two of our better players.”
Trinity’s style of play a season ago saw the team reach the quarter-finals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5A playoffs, with a 48-41 loss to eventual tournament champions Holy Martyrs Armenian.
JaNasjia Bethke, who is no longer with the team, and then-junior Taylor Oshiro were the only two Knights to score in their game against the Armens, an occurrence that Oshiro confirmed happened all too often.
Under Hebert’s new offense, Oshiro’s scoring average may have dropped from 22.9 to 16.5 points per game, but the implementation of team-centered plays has taken pressure off the senior.
“My role now is letting the offense work for me instead of me getting the ball and creating things on my own,” Oshiro said. “This season is about letting the play happen and, as the play works itself out, I’ll end up being open.”
The system change stresses that players take on new roles and, in the case of Hannah Looney, a new position as well.
Looney, a senior who co-captains the team with Oshiro, finds herself sitting at the helm of the Knights’ offense as the team’s starting point guard. The unexpected change has allowed for Looney to average 2.8 assists per game, two more than she averaged last season.
“It’s definitely a big step up from what I’ve been doing,” Looney said. “I really enjoy my job. I like getting everyone on the team involved and giving them a chance to contribute.”
A factor that Hebert has been unable to change is the overall height of the Knights, though they do feature 5-foot-10 Kathryn Brooks (11.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game) at center.
What Trinity lacks in size, however, it more than makes up for with speed, an element that has allowed it to put pressure on opposing offenses. The team’s average of nine steals per game allows the Knights to score points off of the fast break, helping to achieve Hebert’s goal of “making our defense our offense.”
After defeating Alverno Heights Academy, 56-15, in the consolation championship of the Northeast Valley Tournament, the Knights find themselves sitting at No. 7 in Division 5A after the release of the first CIF Southern Section polls.
Trinity appears well on its way to matching, and potentially improving, on last season’s success, which Hebert, Oshiro, and Looney all believe is a real possibility.
For Hebert, however, the fact that the Knights are having fun is the most important thing to him.
“We like to have them go home smiling, happy, and enjoying basketball,” Hebert said. “The fact that they’re excited to come to practice and to go to games has been huge for us.
“It’s been one of my favorite parts of coaching.”