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December 7, 2022

GHS girls hoops flipping the script

Despite losing all-leaguer Chelsea Hill, five others to graduation and its head coach from a 2010-11 team that cruised to an undefeated Tri-County Athletic League championship (22-2 overall) and was moments away from advancing to the Central Coast Section Division I finals, the pieces were in place – four key returners and a handful of wildcard newcomers eager to contribute – for a sequel in 2011-12.

The screenplay for the Gilroy High girls varsity basketball team’s season was set for production. The Mustangs were ready for action.

But in just its second game of the season (Dec. 1,) the plot took a turn no one in the blue and white ever fathomed – not even first-year head man Kort Jensen, who has been coaching basketball in some capacity for the past 30 years.

The Mustangs’ leading scorer, senior point guard Michelle Sosa, who averaged a team-best 12 points during her junior campaign a year ago, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament on a fluke play late in the team’s first-round game of the Mustang Classic against Santa Catalina.

“I’ve been around basketball a long time and I’ve never seen it – never witnessed it,” Jensen said.

So with its offensive and defensive catalyst likely out for the season, Gilroy adjusted on the fly and finished the tournament with a victory over Watsonville and a lopsided loss to Santa Cruz in the final.

In no way is the season a wash. More reasonably explained, it’s back to the drawing boards – a re-shoot if you will. The season’s original script has been tossed out the gym doors, but with Jensen as the director, along with a cast of players willing to fill the leading role, the Mustangs are poised to defend in the TCAL.

“Do we miss her, absolutely. Michelle could dominate a game from the point guard position. We ran our offense through her. But the girls have really stepped up and want to compete,” Jensen said.

Since the opening weekend, the Mustangs have had about seven days of practice and a 41-28 victory over Pajaro Valley. They are 4-1 and used the relatively quiet week to reinforce the multitude of schemes Jensen has laid in front of his players.

“We spent this week with three girls running point,” Jensen said. “They all bring unique skills and strengths.”

The pairing of returning co-stars, junior Kaylana Mah and senior Ashlee Williams, is a crucial element in filling the void left by Sosa. Mah will slide from the wing to the point guard position and run the offense, providing a solid mid-range jumper and a quick first step to the hoop. Mah’s running mates up top, senior Athena Alarcon and sophomore Brianna Barron, complete the Mustangs restructured backcourt.

“Kaylana is probably the best shooter on the team from the outside,” Jensen said. “Fundamentally the shot is right on.”

Williams, who was named to the Mustang Classic all-tournament team, is a viable presence under the hoop at both ends of the floor.

“Ashlee Williams is a very, very good player,” Jensen said. “I’ve seen her game really elevate. She has taken full advantage of her increased looks. She is a good scorer, good shooter and good rebounder.”

Another returner, senior Kayla Guardino, and first-year player sophomore Holly Lam, join Williams and give the Mustangs a sturdy backcourt.

“We have a lot of new girls, and we have to find their strengths and fit those in to make this work,” Williams said.

– The Mustangs host Yerba Buena on Wednesday before taking a brief ride to crosstown foe Christopher High on Friday night. Both games are slated for 7 p.m. tip-offs. Following Friday’s contest, the Mustangs will have 10 days off before entering the Seaside Sweet 16 where they are the defending champions.

“Right now, we need to figure out ways to compete,” Jensen said. “From there, we will figure out how to win those games.”

– Jensen said Sosa will undergo surgery on Dec. 21. Early prognosis from the doctor is a six-week timetable for recovery. “Whether she comes back or not,  I just want what’s best for her,” Jensen said.

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