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Vars girls’ basketball season ends in tears with loss against the Lincoln Mustangs 63–43

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Senior forward Rufina Lui dribbles around a Galileo defender in a playoff game on Feb. 24. Photo by Kelley Grade

The varsity girls’ basketball team finished its season with a 7–3 league record after losing 63–43 to the Mustangs in the Academic Athletic Association semifinal match.

The team had a week of focused practice to mentally prepare for the game, according to senior co-captains and guards Madison Toy and Erin Li. “They were just hungrier for the win than we were,” senior co-captain and guard Audrey Ng said.

This season, there were many new faces on the varsity squad. Ten players moved up from the JV team, including four sophomores. The jump from JV to varsity meant a faster pace of play and tougher opponents. The newcomers had to adapt to head coach Aki Kuwada’s coaching style, which, according to the co-captains, is vastly different from JV head coach Christine Hosoda’s approach to the game. Hosoda focuses on perfecting fundamentals, whereas Kuwada wants his players to play to their strengths. “It’s a learning curve,” Kuwada said. “As a head coach, I have to make sure that I bite my tongue and don’t scream too much at them. They are learning and getting better for next year and that’s all I can ask of them.”

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To prepare for a tough league schedule, the Cardinals squared up against Saint Ignatius Wildcats and Saint Francis Lancers, two tough West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) teams, as well as the Scotts Valley Falcons and the Palo Alto Vikings. “The fact that we kept it close with a very good Palo Alto team was a testament to who we were and who we could be,” Toy said. The challenging non-conference schedule gave the Cardinals a feel for the competition against Lincoln and Washington.

At the start of the season, poor performance in practice bred uncertainty for a win in the regular season, according to Ng. The team fooled around and wasted time that could have been spent learning more plays. Additionally, players were not performing to the best of their abilities. Weak passes in practice translated to weak passes in games and losses. In response, the team captains called a team meeting to discuss their performance in practices and decided that the team would set small goals, such as turning the ball over less, to achieve during the practice.

“Everything about this game was perfect. The bench was there, everyone was cheering and having fun.”

The first league game against the Mustangs on Jan. 5 was the highlight of the season, according to the team captains. After being down by 11 points in the second quarter, the Cardinals stormed back to tie the game up in the third quarter. Both teams traded leads throughout the fourth quarter before Lowell took the lead for good on a pair of free throws made by sophomore guard Lauren Chan, upsetting the eventual AAA champions. “Everything about this game was perfect,” Ng said. “The bench was there, everyone was cheering and having fun.”

Junior guard Samantha Kwock dribbles the ball. Photo by Kenny Dzib

Unlike previous years, players were so united in a common will to win that they did not aggressively fight for playing time. Players had no problem getting less playing time if it meant that the team was successful.

Aside from a scavenger hunt led by Ng and “secret sister” arrangements, the team was not able to do many team bonding activities, due to scheduling conflicts. Some players even had jobs that they had to skip practice for, which forced Kuwada to reassemble lineups based on who showed up.

With only seven seniors graduating, the Cards are likely to return to an experienced team next season.

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Vars girls’ basketball season ends in tears with loss against the Lincoln Mustangs 63–43