The eight seniors on the Kimball High girls basketball team include a group of five girls who all made the 2011-12 varsity team as freshmen and took their team to Kimball High’s first basketball playoffs.

“We’ve just gotten closer every year,” senior Allison Schmidt said of her longtime teammates, Alexis Clark, Sarah Nunes, Ayida Peters and Isabella Lawrence. “It’s just fun to play with them. We’ve gotten better every year. It’s really exciting.”

They’ve been to the playoffs every year since and last season won the Valley Oak League title, going 25-4 overall and 13-1 in the VOL.

“That boosts our confidence a lot, but now we know that everyone is gunning for us, so we have to work harder this year,” Schmidt said.

Coach Mike Granillo said he has seen how they’ve changed from year to year.

“Before, we had to coach them and guide them, and especially as freshmen, we had the gloves on just to make sure we don’t break them as they’re learning,” Granillo said.

“Each year they progress, we took the gloves off and now they’re fully aware of what they’re capable of doing.”

Granillo will see how his team performs against strong competition at the SoCal Holiday Classic in San Diego at the end of December.

“You always look for a tournament to go compete away and make it an adventure to reward the girls for their hard work,” he said.

VOL play begins the second week of January, and Granillo said that just as Kimball’s team had gotten better, he expected the VOL to be better, too.

“Like I tell everybody, every season, every year, you have to come with your A game in this league, because anyone can beat you any given night,” he said.

Original Jaguar coach steps up to varsity role

Justin Gregory, the new Kimball varsity boys coach, already knows Jaguar basketball as well as anyone.

Gregory was the first coach for Kimball boys basketball, forming the first junior varsity team in 2009 and remaining as the JV coach as Joe Lawrence led the varsity team for four years.

Lawrence stepped down at the end of last season to devote more time to his duties as Kimball’s athletic director. The team has steadily advanced and logged a winning record — 16-11, 6-8 in the Valley Oak League — for the first time last year.

Gregory expects the team will keep getting better, with five returning seniors and one returning junior. Last year’s top scorers graduated, but senior Jhordin Mellion, another leading scorer, is among the returners, as are seniors Josh Carpenter and Peter Van Katwyk, both 6-foot-4 forwards.

Gregory sees several advantages on his team.

“I think it’s our speed and our intelligence,” he said. “These guys have a high basketball IQ, so we’ll be able to do some more stuff on the fly, which is good. We’re fairly athletic, too, from top to bottom.”

How Kimball succeeds in the VOL will depend on how competitive the team becomes.

“That’s what we’re working on now — see who emerges as the most competitive guys,” Gregory said. “Those are the ones that are going to earn the spots.”

Gregory said that it had always been his goal to be a varsity coach, so when Lawrence stepped down, he wanted to continue to promote the scholar-athlete culture that he and Lawrence had instilled in their players since the first year.

“I figured it was my turn to step up to the plate and keep that going,” he said. “I feel like we’ve built a great foundation with great kids, trying to be competitive and build on that. We set high expectations for these guys around campus, as well.”

Contact Sports Editor Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

Sports editor at the Tracy Press

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