There was never any doubt that the Scotts Valley Girls’ Basketball team would qualify for the Central Coast Section playoffs this year. After all, the Falcons cruised through Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League play undefeated (12-0) for the third straight year and beat Soquel in the SCCAL post-season tournament championship game.

The big question was would ScottsValley be selected to the prestigious “Open Division” featuring the “best of the best” teams in CCS, or would it be selected into Division IV, with schools of similar enrollment? That question was answered on “Selection Sunday,” February 21, as the Falcons earned the number one seed in Division IV, thus providing ScottsValley a great opportunity to bring home its first CCS girls’ basketball championship.

As the number one seed, the Falcons (22-4 overall) earned a first round bye and a rare Monday off from practice. Well rested yet eager to play, the Falcons showed no signs of rust as they handily defeated No. 8 Castilleja (Palo Alto) 59-29 at MenloHigh School last Saturday setting up Tuesday night’s game against No. 5 seeded Oceana High of Pacifica.

The Castilleja victory was a microcosm of ScottsValley’s season and its overall philosophy: dominating defense to start the game which converts turnovers into points The Falcons outscored Castilleja 18-1 in the first quarter along with an up-tempo style of play that eventually wears (wore?) down its opponents physically and mentally. The by-product of this strategy is that the Falcons score points and lots of them, averaging 64.6 per game to date while their stifling defense allows just 41.3 points per game. You do the math; that’s an average margin of victory of 23.3 points per game. With its commanding lead against overwhelmed Castilleja, allowed Head Coach Rick Silver and Assistant Coach Ron Whittle the luxury to play all 13 Falcons on the roster, with 10 players scoring.

So what’s the secret to ScottsValley’s basketball success? To go undefeated in league play year after year, to compete at the highest level against the best teams in the Bay Area, to produce college caliber players on a routine basis just doesn’t happen by accident.

From the coaches to the players, one thing is clear, hard work is at the core of this program’s success. Four-year starting point guard and leading scorer Nikiya Bechtle (19 points per game) said, “Every year it’s been instilled into our team to work really hard.” This includes a voluntary pre-season conditioning program focused on speed and agility. “We start the season in shape,” said Silver, now in his second season as head coach but having served as an assistant varsity coach and junior varsity coach for four years previous.

And that leads to the second piece of the puzzle; consistency in coaching, not only at the high school level but the youth, middle school and AAU levels where Silver and Whittle have both coached, where young players learn the basics and hone their skills so that by the time they arrive in high school, they are ready to step right into the mix without skipping a beat.

Silver, whose daughters Angela and Mandy played for the Falcons and are currently both playing for the University of Redlands in Southern California, also notes that, “The girls are passionate about the game and very motivated.” This includes Senior Guard Grace Giguiere, who after taking her junior year off from basketball to concentrate on softball, returned this year to the delight of her teammates and coaches to share in the ultimate goal of a CCS championship.

It’s safe to say that this year’s team has achieved success in a variety of ways and has gained respect both locally and over the hill in basketball circles. Will a CCS Championship banner be hanging in the ScottsValley gym soon? Stay tuned!

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