After graduating just three seniors from last season and returning an experienced lineup, including some new additions, the Mingus Union High School girls basketball team is ready for a successful 2017-18 season.
Shooting and defense were tabbed as the team’s strengths, which returns Second Team All-Region forward Darien Loring, a junior, and senior forward Nikki Zielinski, an Honorable Mention pick.
“We stay with a lot of motion offense: Five out, have a lot of picks, [and] strong defense man-to-man,” head coach Frank Nevarez said. “For us basically it’s going to be how well we run our offense, stay within the framework of what we come up with, and our defense. I think our defense can take us a long way.”
Additions like senior guard Kaycee Williams have provided more depth to the team that is comprised of seven seniors, five juniors and one sophomore. As the practices and games go by, overall team chemistry is forming.
“It’s going a lot better now that we’ve all practiced together,” Williams said. “I think as the season continues it’ll get better, so we can just give each other certain looks and know where they’re going to be at that time.”
Nevarez admitted that while his team is not fast up and down the court, it is quick and athletic at both ends of the floor. It also has the intangibles on its side this year.
“The way they support one another. This year the team seems like they’re more of a team,” Nevarez said. “They’re looking out for each other, they build each other up. If one makes a mistake the other girls come and rally around her.”
The team traveled to camps and leagues during the summertime to work on the fundamentals. Ball handling is still a key area for improvement, as well as staying within the offense.
Nevarez said that Flagstaff High School and Coconino High School will remain the top contenders for the Grand Canyon Region title. But after them, it will be a three-team race between the Marauders, Bradshaw Mountain High School and Lee Williams High School for the third-place spot, and potentially a Conference 4A playoff berth.
Mingus started off the year on the front foot, defeating Dysart High School on the road 51-22. Nevarez said that the game was in hand in the second quarter, but his team did not let up, which almost proved costly in last year’s matchup.
“I knew that our intensity would have to be there to begin with,” Nevarez said. “This year we started with that intensity but we kept it throughout the whole game. This is the same team we beat last year and we started with intensity and they almost beat us as the end of the game, we only won by one point. We kept the intensity and I think that made the difference.”
Nevarez pointed out junior forward Summer Scott as a standout from the game.
“I just wanted to start the season off really good, and get us going us with a solid start for the rest of the season,” Scott said. “The team did really good together, we communicated really well.”
The team hosted Cactus High School on Tuesday, Nov. 28, but results were unavailable at halftime. It plays at the Red Rock Hoops Classic on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1 and 2, at Sedona Red Rock High School.