The Hudson’s Bay girls basketball team no longer has the big three that led the Eagles to their best season in program history last season.
Yet the team still maintains an identity rooted in doing the little things that require nothing more than effort: hustle, defensive intensity and constant, unrelenting energy.
“I think it’s the most important part of our game right now,” junior guard Promise Bond said. “Because we might not be at that level yet, but we can make it up with that energy.”
In the time since Bay finished sixth at last season’s Class 2A state tournament, seniors Aniyah Hampton and Paytin Ballard graduated, Mahaila Harrison transferred to DME Academy in Florida for her senior season and the Eagles welcomed a new head coach in Alexis Gleason.
All combined, those things amounted to a lot of change for the Eagles, but in Friday’s season opener against Prairie, they exceeded.
Bay led the Falcons for the majority of a 39-35 win and survived a late Falcons rally to pull out a victory in game one.
Prairie (0-2) got a game-tying basket with four minutes left in the fourth quarter from Claire Smith, who, along with Maddie Clouse, each led the Falcons with 10 points.
Bay responded with a Miranda Gonzalez 3-pointer and an Emma Mady layup. Nursing a 38-35 lead with under a minute remaining, the Eagles got a defensive stop on the Falcons’ final possession and Devon Johnson-Brown iced the game with a made free throw.
“If one person’s energy drops, everybody’s energy will drop,” said Gonzalez, “so we knew we had to keep the energy up and keep the hustle up, in order to keep playing.”
“The fact that they could come together and handle such a well-built program like Prairie is very impressive. … I literally couldn’t have asked for a better effort from my team. I’m so proud of them,” said Gleason, who played for Bay as a senior during the 2009-10 season. Gleason and assistant coach Treneisha Doyle, also a Hudson’s Bay graduate, were teammates in the Eagles girls basketball program.
“It really is a cool experience to be back on the bench with somebody I suited up with on this floor. We make those connections with these girls, walking through the same halls, classes (and) some of the same teachers who taught us are teaching these girls. It’s really cool to be able to dive into their world and hopefully send them off to something bigger and better in the end.”
Although this year’s team doesn’t lack experience (Bond and Johnson-Brown started last season, while Miranda Gonzalez and Alana Stephens were rotation players off the bench), the void left by Hampton, Ballard and Harrison is most glaring on the offensive end.
Returners realized they needed to take on bigger scoring roles for the two-time defending 2A Greater St. Helens League champions. On Friday, Bond led Bay with 14 points and paced the offense early by scoring 12 of the team’s first 19 points. Mady and Miranda Gonzalez each chipped in eight points and Stephens added five points before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.
“We knew we had to defend our title, we knew we had to defend our title and we knew we had to work hard, so it was a little bit stressful,” said Gonzalez, a junior.
“It’s not just the title,” Bond added. “They were our big offensive players. Last year I feel like we really had their backs on defense, and I think this year we had to show that we can step up and show that we can play offense too. And, have that hustle.”
Last season’s sixth-place state trophy was a first for the Eagles girls basketball team and capped a run of postseason success over several years.
Does that trophy serve as motivation for this year’s team? In a sense, yes, but for players like Bond and Gonzalez, they’re also looking at the bigger picture of the program. Specifically, how they can leave it in a good place for new players and years to come.
“It’s really just trying to protect that legacy,” Bond said. “We worked hard last year to achieve that and worked hard at state. This year, it’s really, we just want to keep that going and keep building our team so that (in) the future, it will still be built.”
Added Gonzalez: “It’s more about now building up the teams we have — C team, JV, varsity — so when we leave, there’s a legacy behind them they can keep going. … ‘Bay Way,’ keep the legacy going.”
HUDSON’S BAY 39, PRAIRIE 35
Prairie — Kira Caesar 0, Claire Smith 10, Emma Smith 4, August Kissinger 2, Natalie Coughran 0, Maddie Clouse 10, Joely Renk 5. Totals 12 (2) 5-9 35.
Hudson’s Bay — Alana Stephens 5, Promise Bond 14, Miranda Gonzalez 8, Shakira Gonzalez 3, Devon Johnson-Brown 1, Emma Mady 8. Totals 15 (3) 6-20 39.
Prairie 11 3 10 11—35
Bay 9 10 14 6—39