Defeating previously unbeaten Salt River 39-25 Saturday, the Sequoia Pathway junior high girls basketball team won the Division I state championship.
“It was arguably the best game they’ve played all year,” Athletic Director Nate Wong said. “Everyone did their job.”
The girls went undefeated, 18-0. It was the third year the team went undefeated through the regular season.
“They’re a pretty incredible group,” Wong said. “They’ve built a core group that has been together for several years, since they were fourth and fifth graders. That mentality, that maturity is what made the difference.”
The junior high team is comprised of nine players, from fifth grade through eighth grade. This is the fourth year Sequoia has offered girls basketball, Wong said.
The athletic director said being on the basketball team gives the girls confidence in the rest of their school experience.
“Sometimes in the classroom, it takes so long for them to see the results of their hard work. With [basketball], they can see results in weeks or in the course of a few days,” Wong said. “They’re going to execute plays offensively and defensively. They get it into their heads, ‘Hey, if I pay attention and I listen and I’m enthusiastic about something, I can achieve anything.’
“When they see game film they can see that’s exactly what we’ve been working on in practice. I think they see that can be true in the classroom.”
Seventh grader Aleina Estrada was selected for the all-star game for the third year. A school can nominate one player every year as an all-star, and that task falls to Wong. He said there are always three or four he would like to send.
“Aleina has been the foundation of the junior high girls program,” Wong said. “She’s a great leader.”
Coaches Jesse and Dee Estrada will coach the all-star games for the third season in a row.
***ADVERTISEMENT***"In my opinion, Dee is the mother of girls basketball in Maricopa," Wong said. "From the standouts here at Pathway, to the top players for Maricopa High, Dee has played a tremendous role in the development of each athlete, not only as basketball players, but as young women. I'm incredibly humbled and honored that she is part of the program I'm trying to build at Pathway."
He said the junior high team has become a farm team for the Sequoia Pathway High School team. He said athletics was key to building a better academic program at the charter school. Having talented junior high players stay with the school into high school builds up the varsity team, and the enrollment allows Sequoia Pathway more financial opportunities.