Golden Valley girls basketball hoping new faces equals fresh start

Sage Peterson Henry goes in for a layup during practice at Golden Valley High School on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

In his first year as Golden Valley’s girls basketball coach, Galbert Conner was unable to get his wealth of seniors to buy into his program.

“Not at all,” he said. “Not one bit.”

With nine new faces on this season’s roster, he’s getting a fresh start.

And thus far, it’s working.

“It’s a lot smoother,” Conner said, with his team out to a 2-1 start. “Practices are smoother. Drills are smoother. These girls enjoy coming to practice and putting the work in. And my seniors this year aren’t resisting.

“That was a big issue last year.”

The Grizzlies will have four seniors on this year’s team, led by Sage Peterson-Henry, who averaged 5.6 points and 6.4 rebounds last season.

Junior Shyann Franklin is the only other returner who was in last season’s rotation.  She averaged a team-high 7.5 rebounds to go with 6.6 points.

Junior guard Cassandra Ortiz is also expected to take on a bigger role after averaging 2.2 points in limited action last season.

“The message I’m sending this year is a clean start, clean slate,” Conner said. “We have nine girls who have never played varsity basketball before. It’s going to take them some time to adapt.”

A pair of freshman guards have Conner excited about the future. Imani McGee and Kaylie Lepley joined the team, but are rehabbing respective injuries and likely won’t be back until the second half of the season.

Freshman Imani McGee (15) gets ready to shoot the ball during practice at Golden Valley High School on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

“They’re going to be the best backcourt in town before too long,” Conner said. “They’ll turn some heads.”

Conner acknowledged the fact that being hired as the program’s fifth coach in 10 seasons played a role in the inability to reach last year’s seniors.

“Consistency is everything,” he said.

He credited the work of former Grizzlies coach Kerri Johnson, who’s taken on a “general manager” role with this year’s team as an assistant.

Though Conner has been able to get this year’s team to believe in his system to this point, Conner knows the odds of Golden Valley beating the likes of Canyon and Valencia – who shared the Foothill League title last season – are slim.

“Are we going to beat them? I don’t know,” he said. “Are we going to lose by 40-plus points like we did last year to them, definitely not.”

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Having such a young team has Conner believing the Grizzlies will be competing with the Cowboys and Vikings for a league title in the not-too-distant future. Golden Valley finished second-to-last in league last season, with a win over West Ranch in the season finale accounting for its lone league win.

“When the tides turn, and my freshmen mature, we’re going to put it on them,” Conner said.

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