Westmoreland high school notes: Basketball tournament to honor late Jeannette standout

Westmoreland high school notes: Basketball tournament to honor late Jeannette standout

While a third-place finish in a competitive Golden Empire League is nothing to brush off, especially in a shortened and crazy year, the Woodland High School women’s varsity basketball team felt like they did a lot of solid building for now and the future.

Coming off the heels of their first playoff appearance in 20 years, Wolves head coach Dave England couldn’t wait to get back on the court and try to reach the same heights of last year. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, the season was heavily reduced.

“We were all looking forward to building off last year,” England said. “We made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years and won a playoff game. Most of us were coming back, so we had high hopes, but it just didn’t work out. But it was still fun to coach them, and we had a good time.”

Although the regulations ended up only allowing 10 league games, the Wolves were incredibly happy to get some games in, especially for the seniors.

“It was very important to get to play this year,” England said. “They had been cooped up for over a year, and even though it was only 10 games and we had to share kids with different sports, it was still fun.”

With four seniors on the team, the Wolves relied on plenty of players that had been waiting for their chance. Two of the Wolves earned GEL all-league honors, including backcourt duo Marina Montez and Julz Villanueva. In addition, freshman Ava Contreras earned an honorable mention.

Villanueva, a three-year varsity player, was a basketball magnet on the court, leading the team and league in steals. According to England, she would have qualified for the state lead in steals had the Wolves played enough games to reach the required threshold of games.

She was also second in the team in scoring.

“I’m thankful we even had a season as weird as it was, but Julz definitely deserved to be mentioned and be an all-league recipient,” England said. “She’s a great kid, and she’s going to go on to do big things.”

According to England, Villanueva’s ball-handling as a lead guard vastly improved. Couple that with instincts that she had shown since her sophomore year, and you have the ingredients for a fantastic, all-around season.

“Shooting the three was always good, getting steals she was really good at, but her ability to handle the ball better under pressure really came out,” England said. “She drove a lot more to the basket than she ever had before, and that was good to see. Also, her quickness helped her a lot.”

Villanueva plans to attend San Diego State in the fall.

Grace Reimer, a two-year varsity player, played part-time for the Wolves but impacted the court.

“She is a very spunky young lady,” England said. “She turned into a pretty good basketball player. She was very confident in her abilities this year, which was good to see, and backed up Marina pretty well.”

Reimer didn’t look for her shot too much out on the court, which was unfortunate, but according to England, she was a great team player and looked to get everyone involved.

“Her court awareness got better,” England said. “She started seeing things more, especially defensively. I think she learned a lot from Julz and Marina about anticipating when a ball goes to one side, eventually it’s going to come back.”

Reimer is set to attend UCLA in the fall.

Woodland High School guard Grace Reimer (1) back in Feburary of 2020. CARLOS GUERRERO – DAILY DEMOCRAT
Sarah Walker, who played out on the wing, played basketball like “she’s out on the football field,” according to England, but he didn’t mean it as a negative.

“She plays hard,” England said. “She’s very aggressive, and for as small as she is, she rebounds like crazy. She wasn’t afraid to get in there and mix it up with people.”

According to England, Walker’s aggressiveness on the offensive end improved the most from last year.

“She was quite the character too,” England said. “She was always keeping everyone loose at practice. She was a lot of fun to coach this year, and I appreciated her hard work. I never had to worry about her getting in there and mixing it up.”

Walker is headed to Cal State Fullerton along with the last senior, Angelina Luevano.

Luevano filled in some pretty big shoes as the starting center this year. Last year due to the absurd frontcourt depth England had at his disposal, Luevano played a small role. This year she was ready for the starting spot.

“She improved so much in her understanding of the game and her ability to get in there and rebound,” England said. “She wasn’t afraid to get in there and do the little things to help out the team. I don’t think we had more than maybe five layups all year against our press because she was always where she needed to be. I think the most impressive thing is she improved her confidence.”

“I told her at the end of last year that she was going to be the starting center, so you’re going to have to step up and do all the dirty things you have to do inside,” England continued. “She said she was ready. She took on the challenge and did well.

While he’s sad to see these four seniors go, England has a ton to look forward to next year.

“We will have Montez back again, and her sister will be a junior,” England said. “We won’t be as deep as we were this year, but it’s alright. Many kids that would not have ordinarily played got to play on varsity because we only had one team. In the six games we won, the kids got a lot of playing time. Everyone now has some experience at the varsity level.”

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