Inside the foyer of Valencia High’s gymnasium Thursday, Jade Jordan put her hand to her face and squinted.
A visitor’s question about point guard Chyanne Pagkalinawan appeared to border, humorously, on tear-provoking.
A few minutes earlier, Valencia senior Kayla Konrad had put into words what Jordan could not.
“I love Chyanne,” Konrad says.
Love for the junior floor general runs deep among Valencia girls basketball’s starting seniors, the group of Jordan, Konrad, Ashlee Ane and Kenadee Honaker that has headlined the Vikings’ run to Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA final against Canyon at Honda Center in Anaheim.
The seniors agree that Pagkalinawan completes them, and that as her confidence has increased, so has her game.
“She thought she was more of a playmaker,” Konrad says, “but now she knows she’s a playmaker and a shooter.”
Pagkalinawan, who has attempted twice as many 3-pointers (121) as she did last year and averaged four more points a game (9.7), says she started playing with Valencia’s core four during her seventh-grade year.
Generally uncomfortable around new teammates, Pagkalinawan felt welcomed almost immediately.
“We got close really fast,” she says.
Pagkalinawan rejoined those four on varsity during her freshman year. She didn’t start, but she watched and learned and improved.
She did a lot of the same last year as backup to then-senior Sabrina Thompson.
The soft-spoken guard’s confidence grew. So did her willingness to attack the basket.
Then, this year, it was her turn.
“I knew I had to step up my game even more because I’m the main point guard now,” Pagkalinawan says. “And I have to do what I know I’m capable of doing.”
That meant expanding her role.
Her duties, in addition to her excellent ball handling, now include shooting open threes, slashing to the hoop for flashy finishes and serving as a perennial pest atop Valencia’s zone defense.
With her improved scoring, she’s still dished out 4.1 assists on average.
She scored 18 points and recorded five assists in Valencia’s first-round win over Canyon of Anaheim.
In the second round, she scored 11 points against West High in Torrance, the town she was born in before moving to the Santa Clarita Valley as a 3-year-old and beginning her basketball career at 5.
She wanted to play after watching her dad, Henry, compete against his friends.
She gravitated toward playing point guard because Henry encouraged her to practice ball handling.
It’s been to Valencia’s benefit.
But so too have other aspects of her game.
“She has her nice layup moves and you can always count on her to make a move in big situations,” Konrad says. “She’s still building her confidence. I think, her senior year, it’s going to be great for her. We’ve been really lucky to have her as our point guard. She’s just awesome.”