Half of the roster that new head coach Lexy Tamony inherited this year comprises sophomores. The Patriots also field four juniors and three seniors. Despite the wealth of underclassmen, four of the seven sophomores played on the varsity team last season and many of them played together before their high school days. They have adapted to Tamony’s coaching style and gone 10-5 in the preseason, handily defeating Freedom in the Bay Valley Athletic League opener.
“She makes us get outside of our comfort zone,” said center Sabrina Engelstad, who averages 10 points and nine rebounds per game. “She knows the game better; she’s a more experienced coach. She has more patience. She realizes that we’re young and still learning – she helps us.”
Prior to coming to Heritage, Tamony was the Athletic Director at Belmont’s Notre Dame High School. Before that, she coached for eight years with Margaret Garner at her alma mater, Carondelet.
Tamony said she has fixed the incorrect assumption that her younger players have a good grasp of the finer points of basketball terminology, which has forced her to become more detailed while coaching.
Additionally, the younger team tends to play to the level of the opponent. Of the Patriots’ five losses, only two have been by more than 10 points. Six of their 10 wins have been by more than 10, but other victories have looked like one-sided Patriots wins before turning into frantic finishes. Despite the minor setbacks, Tamony has been pleased with the results produced by the young team.
“We had 15 games in the month of December and only two weeks to practice before that,” said Tamony. “For a new coach, that was a really tough schedule. I’ve been really impressed with how they’ve been able to kind of adjust on the fly.”
With the pleasant surprise of the team come pleasant surprises from individual players. Sophomore guard Cassidy Golinveaux was on the freshman team just last season. Tamony labeled her as a player with a lot of potential. Additionally, junior guard Aminah Flags transferred from Piedmont and didn’t become eligible until after the season began. Nobody knew what to expect from Flags, but she has given the Patriots a spark.
Sophomore point guard Erin Asher is averaging 10 points per game along with four assists.
The Patriots also get help from two sophomores who play basketball as a second sport. The first is guard/forward Haley Love, who as a freshman swimmer qualified for the North Coast Section meet. Despite her swimming schedule shortening her preseason and practice, Tamony labeled Love as one of the top players on the team.
Ali Ramirez was a freshman on Heritage’s North Coast Section semifinal softball team. There, she played first base and hit in the heart of the order. In basketball, she plays in the paint, averaging eight points and nine rebounds per game. Tamony said that on any given night, Ramirez is the best player on the team. Her greatest hope for both Ramirez and Love is that they will continue to play basketball.
A notable preseason accomplishment for the Patriots was winning the Walnut Creek Classic, defeating host Northgate in the final. Another was a 3-1 record in West Coast Jamboree’s Sapphire Bracket, good enough for fifth place.
Guard and co-captain Alex Grant is one of three seniors on the team. She noted that before the season, the players discussed their weaknesses and set their goals. Now, every day before practices and games, they recite the goals, which helps them prepare and play. “She’s great. She has just brought a lot to the program,” said Grant. “She knows what it takes to keep us working together well.”