COTTONWOOD – For both the players and the coaching staff, this year has been a learning experience for the girls basketball team at Mingus Union High School.
With only three starters – each in the starting lineup – first-year head coach Frank Nevarez not only looks forward to continued growth from his young squad, but also towards a future of experienced players setting an example for the youngsters.
Coming out of the holiday break, the Lady Marauders prepare for their next match, a Jan. 3 game on the road against Coconino High School. Currently 5-3 on the season, Mingus will prepare for a Coconino team that shoots the basketball “very well,” Nevarez says.
“They’re very quick,” Nevarez says. “They carry five or six seniors, the rest juniors. And they have some height, two or three girls, maybe four who are at least five-foot 10-inches.”
Coconino, at 9-1 this year, is the “cream of the crop in the region,” Nevarez says. To beat Coconino, Nevarez says Mingus will need to attack the basket on the offensive end.
“We’ll probably run a 4-1 attack, with four girls outside the three-point perimeter and one in the bottom,” Nevarez says. “Create as many dribble-drives as possible. I know my one, two and three can shoot from the outside.”
By “one, two and three,” Nevarez is talking about senior playmaker Destiny Razo, sophomore shooting guard Darien Loring and junior small forward Nikki Zielinski, in that order.
“Our 1-2-3 can beat almost anyone,” Nevarez says. “Destiny and Darien can shoot off the three-point line. Obviously we have to hit our shots, but the shots have to be there.”
At 12.0 points per game, Loring is leading Mingus in scoring, followed by Razo at 11.5 points per game. At 7.6 rebounds per game, Zielinski is leading the team’s inside attack.
Sometimes a good offense is an impenetrable defense. Says Nevarez, Mingus will need to play tough defense to counteract Coconino’s up-tempo offense.
“They like to run a lot,” Nevarez says. “We’ll need to play a zone to stop their fast break. We need to slow them down. And with the transitional game, we need to rebound. We cannot allow offensive rebounds.”
After two weeks off for Christmas and the New Year, Nevarez says his team is beginning to look more and more like a cohesive unit and not the team that struggled a year ago.
“We’ve got the team believing in themselves,” Nevarez says. “They play together. Got to give the girls a lot of credit for working so hard.”