In most high schools, the average varsity team size can be anywhere from 10 to 15 players. For our girls varsity basketball team, this was the case at the start of the season with 14. However, even before the team started their league games, they only had ten and as of now are down to nine. So
“We lost a lot of good players,” junior and team captain Mikaela Topper said. “But I think we are still going to succeed in
Towards the beginning of the school year, even before basketball had officially started at Pinewood, the team lost two players: freshman Mele Kailahi and her sister, sophomore Stella Kailahi. Stella was a strong force in her previous year at Pinewood and her sister was about to make her debut. Both transferred to Menlo Atherton a couple weeks into the beginning of the year.
As preseason games and tournaments began, two other players from the team, juniors Amelia Schmarzo and Priya Sundaresan, both had to stop playing due to health concerns and injuries.
“It was hard for the team losing Priya and Amelia at the same time, because everyone knew that they both wanted to keep playing basketball, but that they physically couldn’t,” senior Chloe Eackles said.
Just as the team had put in the work to get past the loss of these valuable teammates and started in league with an undefeated record of 4-0, the unimaginable happened. One of the team’s leading scorers and starting point guard, sophomore Brianna Claros, suffered an ACL injury during an away game almost halfway into the season.
“Bri has a very specific point guard skill set,” head coach Doc Scheppler said. “She has ball handling, court vision, and great defensive principles so I knew it would be a challenge coming back after losing Claros.”
Even with the loss of their starting point guard, Pinewood continued on a 6-0 winning streak to finish undefeated in league 10-0. Scheppler gives credit to the team for stepping up, but most notably to Topper, who recently was honored with League MVP.
“Mikaela Topper is one of the best team captains anyone can ask for, in terms of coach-ability, leadership, and being a great role model. She is one of the main factors in why the you haven’t seen a large drop off within the team,” Scheppler said.
Topper has seen this though as an opportunity for not just herself, but for the entire team to step up and continue to do well despite these losses.
“It’s allowed a lot of people on the team to step up, I really think Akayla [Hackson] and Erin [Poindexter-McHan] have stepped it up this season and it has given the freshman a big opportunity to shine, and with [freshman] Hannah [Jump] leading our team in points scored they have really taken that opportunity,” Topper said.
Despite the loss of these key players, the team has played exceptionally, and as they continue in playoffs, some of the injured players are glad they are
“It’s really hard watching your team play and not being able to play with them,” Claros said. “But at the same time it’s good to know for now and the future that this team has my back…. So yes, it is hard to watch them, but I am glad they are continuing to do well without me.”