By Amrita Moitra:
Photos by Butch Garcia and Wendy Qiu:
The Lady Titans made history on Mar. 3 when they defeated Paly for the school’s first ever Central Coast Section (CCS) basketball championship.
The game, played in Santa Clara University’s Leavey Center, was close throughout all four quarters and ended with a final score of 41-39. Spectators were on their toes the entire game, as the lead went back and forth between the rivals. “ I was worried that in the last two minutes that Paly would pull some tricks out of their sleeves,” senior Jesse Zwerling, president of the boisterous Sixth Man Club, said. “Fortunately, Gunn made the most out of Paly’s mistakes and scored on their most important possessions, holding Paly at bay.”
Senior Cat Perez, the team’s captain, was the highest scorer, shooting a total of 18 points and 11 rebounds. Her determination was evident in more than her performance on the court. “You can ask Meghan, one of the freshman on the team,” Perez said. “I kept telling her that I was not leaving Gunn without a CCS title.”
Unlike previous years, when the Titans, a top seed team, lost the CCS championship game and still qualified for the Northern California bracket, this is the first time they have won the CCS division. In fact, this is the first time that any basketball team at Gunn—boys or girls—has won the league championship. Coach Sarah Stapp was also overjoyed by the victory. “I’m extremely proud of the kids I’m coaching, and I’m proud to be a part of what we’ve accomplished,” she said.
Last year, the Lady Titans were in the same position, facing Paly in the CCS championship game and losing. “I think the only reason this year was different was the fact that we knew what it felt like to be in the championship game and lose,” Perez said. “It was our main focus to get back to that championship game and win.” Stapp also credits this year’s victory to last year’s loss. “I think we’re playing just as hard as we always have, but we’re mentally tougher and a year older,” she said.
The team, while ultimately successful, did not have a promising start to the season. “We had high expectations coming into the season,” Perez reflected. “I think we got in over our heads in the beginning.” But after their first two league losses, the Titans came together for a triumphant season.
In addition to the countless hours of practice and conditioning, there are many other aspects to the girls’ success. “Their commitment to each other and the team, and their work ethic have been key,” Stapp said. Perez saw the team mature as well. “We started to play together and acted more as one unit rather than five individuals on the court.”
Although not as young of a team as in previous years, this year’s varsity girls have only four graduating seniors. “The years go by fast,” Perez said. “If I was to give some piece of advice to the girls who play next year, I would say to cherish the moments you have with the team.”
The Sixth Man Club could not be more proud of their Lady Titans. “It was incredible. Being the guy responsible for dragging kids to the game, I was elated to see the entire side filled with students and teachers,” Zwerling said. “The spirit, enthusiasm and sheer volume of the crowd was a big enough win for me.”