ATWATER — Like every basketball coach, Shane Gentry is still searching for that magical ingredient needed to consistently get maximum effort from his players.
But the coaches in the Central California Conference spare little, if any, empathy for his efforts in finding that for his Buhach Colony girls basketball team.
With fourth-year starter Allison Wisdom at point guard and two, three-year starters in Brandy and Barbara Coward back, Buhach Colony (11-5) is once again the favorite heading into Central California Conference play tonight at Pitman (9-8).
Tip-offs are scheduled for 7:15 p.m. tonight.
While Gentry is happy with the Thunder’s play so far, he still thinks his team is capable of more.
“We haven’t had that killer instinct,” said Gentry, whose team is looking for a third consecutive CCC championship. “We come out and take care of business, but it’s almost like we have to be pushed in a corner, or (playing) a game the girls are looking forward to like the Merced game.”
The Thunder jumped out to a big lead against the Bears early in a 42-30 win during the Golden Valley tournament on Dec. 6.
Merced (7-8) could be one of the teams capable of knocking off Buhach Colony. The Bears open at Atwater (8-9) tonight.
Merced has some nice pieces in 6-foot center Dalonna Jones, who is averaging 10 points and just less than 10 rebounds per game. Sophomore Lexi Thompson leads the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game.
Jones is the key for the Bears. When she’s active and a force in the paint on defense, Merced can play with anyone in the conference. Jones missed Merced’s loss to Enochs on Saturday with her foot in a walking boot. Her status for tonight is unknown.
“I think it’s going to be slightly similar to last year,” Gentry said. “I think some of the teams are better. Atwater and Golden Valley are both better. I think it’s going to be tough. There are three or four teams who could be in the mix.”
Atwater doesn’t have any players averaging more than 10 points per game. The Falcons have a balanced attack, led by Mayra Mora (9.2 ppg), Natalie Govia (7.9 ppg) and Jacky Alvarado (6.6 ppg).
The nine wins by Golden Valley (9-8) is the most for the Cougars in a season since 2009. Golden Valley, which opens at home against Turlock tonight, is led by Camille Flores (13.9 ppg) and Marissa Servantes-Sears, who is averaging more than seven points and nine rebounds per game.
Golden Valley coach Matt Thissen said he’s enjoyed watching his players be successful after some rough seasons.
“Absolutely,” he said. “There’s been a lot of smiles. They’re having fun. They’re learning a lot and they’ve improved a lot. I think mentally we’ll be ready to play everybody, except maybe Buhach. I think we’ll still need to probably convince ourselves we can play with them.”
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.