With four returning starters off last year’s team, Christopher High has high hopes to capture the Pacific Coast League Mission Division championship this season. Even with all of the talent coming back, Cougars coach Shirley Lampkin said the team still has to coalesce into one unit, where everyone shares the basketball and buys into the system.
“It’s all about coming together as a team and getting a couple of the girls to play with us instead of being individuals,” Lampkin said. “We’re getting there and we have a bright future, but it’s going to take some time to put it all together.”
Christopher went 3-5 over its first eight games, having played some tough non-league competition like Gunderson and Oak Grove. In returning starters Kat Javier, Mia Ledesma-Old Elk, Mikaela Santiago and Sophia Ayala, the Cougars have four players who have the capability to make an impact in every contest in at least one area of the game.
Lampkin goes up to 10 players deep during a game, and players like Bria Drew-Davis, Rhyan Maldonado, Emma Horn and Bianca Duarte are expected to make strong contributions this season. Javier, a junior 5-foot-2 point guard, possesses the most skill. Javier can create her own shot and has the ability to get hot from 3-point range.
At times, Javier will have to carry the load if the Cougars are to be successful. However, Lampkin knows it’s going to take a team effort for Christopher to achieve its potential. Santiago plays tough defense, Ledesma-Old Elk provides strong rebounding and an inside presence, and Ayala provides toughness and makes the hustle plays.
“Sophia brings that extra gumption you need from a player on the court,” Lampkin said. “She keeps everyone in line and is a leader.”
Maldonado and Horn are often the first two reserve players who come in and boost the team.
“Rhyan plays with a passion and loves the game,” Lampkin said. “She’s a great player-coach in that I can ask her at practice to help explain something and she can relay that to everyone. And Emma is scrappy and hustles, always giving her full effort.”
Lampkin is also high on freshmen Hanna Smith and Emily Baumgartner. Lampkin said Duarte and Halina Bass are coming along nicely and Athena Arellano will be an impact player once she returns in the second week of January. At 5-9, Drew-Davis is undersized as a post player; however, the senior has a strong basketball acumen and plays with a toughness that has been developed by playing with college men players.
“Bria has been doing an amazing job at center,” Lampkin said. “She’s been phenomenal inside in terms of rebounding and setting screens.”
Drew-Davis is one of the feel-good stories in the South Valley, as she missed most of her junior season last year due to a concussion she suffered at the very end of the water polo season. Even though Drew-Davis had sustained a Grade 1 (mild) concussion, there was nothing mild about it, as any concussion has serious health consequences. Drew-Davis missed two weeks of school and had side effects for three months.
In that time, Drew-Davis suffered cluster headaches, a series of painful, short headaches that hit Drew-Davis with regularity. She was also sensitive to light and noise, the latter which proved to be highly irritating. So it’s no wonder that Drew-Davis counts it as a huge accomplishment for getting back on the court this season as in improved player no less.
“I’m thankful I’ve been able to get better,” she said. “Once I got healthy, I got more serious in basketball.”
Indeed, even when the team didn’t have practice on Dec. 18—it was finals week—Drew-Davis went to the Morgan Hill Recreation Center to practice with her boyfriend, who plays in college. Drew-Davis has two half-brothers whom she is close with, including Tyler Davis, who is playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G-League team and was a standout player at Texas A&M.
Davis is 6-10 and 266 pounds, and Bria’s other half-brother, Logan, is a 6-9 center playing at San Jose City College.
“I feel short next to them,” Bria said with a chuckle. “When I think about it, it doesn’t even feel real seeing how tall they are. I grew up feeling tall, but I fall short all the time now.”
Bria is close with Logan, and the two often go to the same facility to work on their conditioning and skills. In fact, it’s not a stretch for the two to be practicing together at 4 a.m. on a random morning. Drew-Davis has gained inspiration from seeing the time Logan has put into the game.
“It might be a cliché, but it really is blood, sweat and tears,” she said. “Seeing him want it so much, you grow to love basketball that much more and aspire to be like him.”
Even though basketball is her No. 1 passion, Drew-Davis loves water polo and singing. She played four years of water polo at Christopher, developing into a tough, gritty player.
“Playing water polo helped me to be more aggressive in basketball,” she said. “I used to be timid, but in water polo if you’re not throwing your body around, you won’t do well. So I started playing more physical, which has helped me in basketball.”