Cougars freshman Kaycee Carasco will have an impact both offensively and defensively with her ability to score and defend the passing lanes. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Splitting the defense on her way to the basket, freshman guard Kaycee Carasco showed the future is now for the Christopher High girls basketball team. 

The Cougars, who beat Live Oak High 48-14 in their season-opener on Nov. 23, are balanced, deep and have talented and hard working players at every grade level, giving longtime coach Heather Stewart reason for optimism for another strong season. 

The Cougars are coming off a Covid spring season in which they made the playoffs and despite graduating their top two players, they’ve reloaded for the 2021-2022 campaign. 

“This is a selfless team that is already playing for one another and that’s a great place to start,” Stewart said. 

The Cougars played with a lot of verve and energy against the Acorns, running out to a 20-0 lead after one quarter. They flooded the passing lanes for over a dozen steals, drove to the basket with authority and played tough defense. Nine different players scored for CHS, led by Carasco’s 11 points. 

Carasco scored on putbacks, drives and runners, and fellow guard Nat Javier finished with 10 points. Carasco, Javier, Brooke Sabala and Alyssa Lopez are the team’s top ball handlers and will be particularly key when the team faces opponents that apply full-court pressure. Stewart loves the competitive attitude Sabala brings to the court and is proud of how she’s developed from her first two years on the team. 

“Brooke is definitely one of those kids kind of all over the place her freshman and sophomore year, but she’s really become more disciplined and settled into her role,” Stewart said. “I call her my little feisty guard who when I want to guard somebody in particular and frustrate them, she’s my go-to because she’s going to do that, and I love that kind of a player.”

Freshman Shiloh Vallejos and sophomore Frenchy Falvey are undersized players who are relentless and play bigger than their size. 

“They are hard-nosed and are very similar in the way they’ll find the bigger, stronger players and match up with them,” Stewart said. “Frenchy gives us real maturity as a sophomore which says a lot about her. She has a really high basketball IQ and her and Shiloh will always be undersized, but they make it up in their effort.”

Forward Emily Baumgartner looks to have her best season yet and possesses a nice mid-range game where she can pull up for jumpers, but she also has the ability to hit shots from beyond the arc and get to the basket off dribble penetration. 

“Emily is starting to get settled into her zone,” Stewart said. “The game is starting to slow down for her so she’s starting to make threes and starting to get comfortable with the ball. Her decision-making is getting better so she’s definitely going to be one of those leaders out there for us for sure.”

CHS has been buoyed by the return of junior Sarah Arcelo, who didn’t play in the Covid spring season because it overlapped with cross country and track and field. Arcelo is long, rangy and active, allowing her to be disruptive on the defensive side of the ball. 

Stewart was encouraged by the team’s execution against Live Oak and making all the hustle plays. For Stewart, the emphasis is not who starts the game but who ends it. 

“We start different lineups because we encourage kids to be finishers instead of starters,” she said. “We can start different lineups any given night based on matchups, but ultimately their goal is who is going to be on the court in the last five minutes of a tie game. That is what they’re striving for because you want to be a finisher.”

Bella Suarez is all focus at the free throw line in the Cougars’ season-opener. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Frenchy Falvey gains control of a loose ball in Christopher’s win over Live Oak on Nov. 23. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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