At the inaugural Sanger Swish Shootout, David Garza watched his son Eric coach a team of elementary school boys as they battled another team.
The former Sanger High girls basketball coach had skipped cleaning his garage June 15 to take in some hoops action. He appeared to enjoy what he saw, joining hundreds of others packing three gymnasiums to see 40 teams from across the central San Joaquin Valley play a total 64 games.
It was amongst this backdrop that Sanger’s girls varsity basketball team tested out next season’s lineup. Garza had to leave after warmly greeting some of the girls. He’s a busy guy these days, having taken an administrative job with Visalia Unified School District and getting promoted to principal of Valley Oak Middle School.
Despite his new job, he’s still an Apache fan.
Sanger’s girls struggled last season, ending up with a 7-20 record and missing the California Interscholastic Federation’s Central Section Division III playoffs. At the Shootout, the Lady Apaches took on Frontier High of Bakersfield.
And after a slow start for both teams, the pace picked up and the athletes began honing their ball handling skills and making a greater percentage of their shots.
Ana Delfin pulled down a good number of rebounds on both the offensive and defensive boards and made her presence known on the scoreboard. Delfin, a senior this coming year, was injured most of last year but didn’t let that keep her from participating and urging on her team at every opportunity.
Delfin said she’s pleased with her team this year.
“They’re really good,” she said during a break in the game.
And Delfin’s taken on a leadership role. She’s expected to shoulder some of the responsibility with the departure of seniors Anelise “Annie” Lopez, Cu-Nisha Mitchell and twins Alyssa and Marissa Hansen.
“I had to step up,” she said. “Just do something to set an example. We have to keep pushing and we have to want it.”
Head coach David Campbell, who will be starting his third year in this chapter of his career, talked shop with Frontier coach Deran Smith before the game. They compared notes on talent and age and determined that both teams were on similar trajectories — a little youthful with untested talent and a lot of potential.
“Our chemistry’s better this year,” Campbell said afterward. “We’re young.”
He said his Apaches have another year of buying into his system before the results and conditioning send them into a competitive post season. In the meantime, they play. A lot.
“It’s a lot of basketball,” Campbell said.
The team will be playing alongside the Sanger boys and 18 other teams in the Evan “Shoot” Medina Memorial Basketball Tournament on June 29. Organizer Al Medina said the purpose of the tournament is for everyone to have fun, setting aside the stresses of the regular season to just see what teams can accomplish.
Lopez was one of those at the Shootout. But she was working the officials’ table, keeping score. She did offer an opinion of her former teammates when offered the chance.
“I think they’re a good team,” she said. “They have a lot more chemistry. It seems they’re more united. I know they have 6 a.m. practices. I think it’s working out so far. They’ll do good things this year.”
Lopez had planned to step aside from basketball in the fall. She intended to enroll at Clovis Community College on her way to pursuing a degree. But that didn’t happen.
“I hadn’t talked to any coaches,” she said. “Then the Reedley (College) coach contacted me and said he had a spot. And I said, ‘You know what? I’ll do it.’”
Also starting her third season on the varsity squad is Andrea Chapa. “We’re better than last year,” Chapa said. “Definitely. We have better communication. Better chemistry. And we have better people coming off the bench.”
While the roster is likely still a little flexible, the lineup indeed looked strong with a number of players moving up from the junior varsity squad and at least one freshman on the team.
Boys basketball coach Al Alvarado III said his Shootout did what it was supposed to do, build up Sanger as a hoops town. “Trying to get all these kids to play more basketball,” he said. “We’re finally able to get teams to come here. Hopefully it’s bigger and better (next year).”
Alvarado said a big problem was getting volunteers to fill in and perform all the necessary tasks.
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