Season starts tonight in Santa Clara

The optimism surrounding the Porterville College women’s basketball team this season is refreshing for a team coming off one of its worst seasons in four years.

Playing with just five players and no bench at times after beginning the 2017-18 season with 11 players, the Lady Pirates lost their first eight games and finished with a 2-23 overall record after going 0-12 in the Central Valley Conference. 

But this season things feel, and are, different with PC listing 15 players, three returners that played in 24, or all 25 games, and seven players from local high schools. 

“I would describe this year’s team as exciting and entertaining to watch,” head coach Jeremy Parker said. “We have a really good core group of newcomers to this year’s team. We have added athleticism at every position and we are at least two deep at all positions. I believe our strength is going to be on the defensive side of the ball because the girls really work hard and get after it defensively. I’m also pleased with the way we run the court in fast-break situations.”

Returning for PC this season are guards Kassy Cervantes and Sierra Perez, as well as forward Kathy Rodriguez out of Strathmore High School. All three sophomores were voted captains for the season and are expected to be a vital part of the team’s makeup. 

Last season, 5-foot-9 Rodriguez led the CVC in blocked shots and was ranked top three in the same category, according to Parker. He added that Rodriguez is “an intelligent player on and off the court”.

With 5-foot-2 Perez, the Pirates bring back a long-range shooter that isn’t afraid to attack while 5-foot-6 Cervantes is an “athletic slasher” that can score off the dribble, shoot the from beyond the arc and is hard to guard in open court. 

With actual depth, Parker said he’s no longer limited in what he can do as a coach this season.

“I actually get to coach the game,” he said. “We get to switch things around, manipulate the game a little bit and it’s actually refreshing. In the years past when you have limited numbers, you can only do one or two things throughout the game and it kind of makes it boring from a coaching standpoint. There’s a little bit of excitement going on, not through just me but everybody involved with the program. We’re optimistic and we’ll see what it brings.”

From the Orange Belt high schools, PC brought in guard Breyanna Hernandez (Porterville), guard and forward Raeleen Jensen (Monache), forward Jordan Keene (Granite Hills), guard and forward Mariah Hernandez (Strathmore), guard Raquel Gonzales (Lindsay), and returned guard Ashley Campos (Monache).

Hernandez was the 2017-18 Orange Belt Girls Basketball Player of the Year as a senior and is sure to have an impact on PC. In her final high school season, 5-foot-9 Hernandez averaged 21 points a game and led the team to the CIF Central Section Division IV championship game.

“[She] is one of the new players to keep your eyes on this year offensively and as her defense continues to develop she will give the opposing team fits,” Parker said. “Her basketball IQ is really high and her decision making really helps other raise their levels of play. She’s versatile and can really score the ball.”

But Hernandez and the returners aren’t the only ones that can make a difference this season with Parker having praise for every single of one his players. 

On freshman guard Juliet Garcia of Mendota Parker said she is the fastest, most athletic player on the team. 

“She’s really plays fearless and we really like that about her. The coaching staff has high hopes for her future with the program,” Parker said. And on Keene, Parker added, “She’s a physical post player that is getting better daily. I’m really looking forward to her growth because she has a great work ethic. As her confidence grows she will make a solid impact on the program.”

Parker expects the growing pains to be there with a new team and wanting to speed things up this season, but he believes the team will be competitive in every game and remain motivated.  

“We want to play a little more up-tempo and stuff like that so mistakes are going to happen,” Parker said. “As long as they’re fixable I can live with that because the turnover rate should be a little higher than last year. We’re looking to get more chances, opportunities...Fixable mistakes are liveable and other than that, the only thing I don’t really tolerate is effort. So we’re really going after effort and determination.”

This season’s fresh start begins tonight at the Mission College tournament where PC plays the host team in an 8 p.m. game. The Pirates are on the road for the entire preseason. Conference play begins Jan. 9 at Merced and PC will host their first game of the season the following week on Jan. 16 against West Hills-Lemoore. 

All fans that wear red shirts to Porterville College home games will get in free this season.

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