Christopher coach Jim Falvey sometimes feels he is coaching the Golden State Warriors: winning first-place trophies, such as in last weekend’s six-team Watsonville tournament, and describing players on his team.
“It starts with our three seniors,” Falvey said. “Nat (Javier) is a natural scorer. She was first team all-league last year. She’s our catalyst. Kinda like Steph Curry, she’s a scorer but she is unselfish. Alyssa Lopez is a knockdown shooter. Like Klay Thompson. Frenchy (Falvey) is our Draymond Green. She defends and facilitates. And our junior, Kaycee Carrasco, is our second best scorer.”
The Cougars dominated in Watsonville last weekend, winning the first-place trophy by beating San Lorenzo Valley 75-17, Salinas 70-33 and Hollister 70-54. Nat Javier, the starting libero on Christopher’s league champion volleyball team, led the Cougars in scoring with tallies of 22, 26 and 22 in the tournament. In the finale, she knocked down five 3-pointers in the first half to spur her team to a 10-point halftime lead and Hollister never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
“Today was really a team effort,” Javier said. “We were getting the 50-50 balls. It was a team effort and we are all a family. In the beginning, our shots didn’t really fall. So we really focused on defense and transitions. As we attacked more, the shots started falling.”
Christopher’s deep attack came to play in the second quarter, as the Cougars outscored the Balers 23-11 in the 8-minute stanza. Sophomore Brooklyn Sax sank 3-pointers from the top and from the right wing, Lopez drained a distant bomb and Carrasco showed her versatility by connecting on a left wing 3-pointer and a pretty reverse layup. Concurrently, Javier nailed three treys during the period.
“Nat and I may be the top scorers but everyone contributes,” said Carrasco, who scored 16, 21 and 18 in the three games. “Today, we did really well with our outside shooting. When there were loose balls on the floor, the closest person would dive on the floor for it. It shows the effort, and the culture of our team.”
Depth helps the Cougars tremendously, especially with their high-intensity pace, full-court defensive pressure and fast-moving offense. Sophomore Maddie Tamone aids the Cougars inside and Ember Navarro and Shiloh Vallejos bolster the team offensively and defensively.
“Shiloh is a junior and a starter,” coach Falvey said. “She’s our Swiss army knife. She can do it all. Shoot, defend, rebound.”
Last year’s Christopher team had a 19-7 record. In the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs, they defeated Sobrato 47-39 and West Catholic Athletic League power Valley Christian 52-37, before falling in the final to another WCAL team, St. Francis, by a count of 66-52.
The Cougars advanced into the NorCal Division III Regionals where they lost as a 14-seed by just 49-44 at third-seeded Colfax. Graduation took away some major contributors, but the strong core of Javier, first-team all-league (Blossom Valley Athletic League, Mt. Hamilton Division) and Lopez, Carrasco and Frenchy Falvey, all second-teamers, return.
“I’ve been coaching a lot of these kids since middle school,” Jim Falvey said. “They’re a cohesive group. We’re definitely small but we’re really scrappy. That’s our DNA. We play positionless basketball. Share the ball, make the extra pass. We play hard and unselfishly. And joy is a big part of our culture.”
The offense is rolling early in the season. Additionally, Christopher’s full-court press caused multiple problems for opponents over the weekend in Watsonville.
“We are trying to play at a faster pace this year,” Falvey added. “Last year we only scored in the 60s once with most scores being in the 40s and 50s.”
Christopher is averaging 71.67 points per game, which computes to 2.24 points per minute, a very high figure for high school girls basketball. That number is actually very close to the Golden State Warriors’ offensive numbers, as they score 2.39 points per minute, as of games through this past weekend. Opponents are aware of what Christopher brings to the table.
“They shot the lights out,” Hollister coach Mitch Burley said. “If they can do that, they’ll beat a lot of teams.”
Coach Falvey was also proud of his team’s defense. After the victory, he credited his squad’s containment of Hollister, which features returning Pacific Coast Athletic League, Gabilan Division co-MVP Bailey Cotter. The Balers shared that league title with North Salinas the last two years. Falvey was also glad to see his team cutting down on turnovers and cashing in shots at a higher percentage.
After the win, Frenchy Falvey placed first-place medals around the neck of each teammate, as the squad and parents rejoiced in a great start to the season.
Branham won the BVAL Mt. Hamilton Division last year, with the Cougars tied for second. Christopher’s top competition this year will likely be the Bruins and Evergreen Valley. League play begins on Jan. 9 at home against Branham. The Cougars have goals for a league title and more.
“Last year, we made it to the CCS championship game,” Javier said. “We would like to make it back and win it.”