Sports

Sean Lynch: Time is now for Le Grand and its senior star

Sean Lynch
Sean Lynch Sean Lynch

A frustrated Aly Gleason put her hands on her knees, gasping for breath.

The Buhach Colony star had just drawn a foul against Le Grand's press, but the referee's whistle provided little comfort.

Gleason was tired and a little beat up from Le Grand's physical, unrelenting pressure.

The three-sport star did everything in her power to keep her team going, but BC couldn't match Le Grand's skill or depth.

Not that you can blame them.

There may be no local girls basketball team that can.

Sure, a Merced squad with a healthy Deja Mann and Dalemesha Hill might have a dispute for the area's top program.

But even a Merced team at full strength would be pushed by

Le Grand.

Danny Crosby's program has amassed 44 wins in the last two seasons, including a perfect 15-0 run through the Southern League last year.

With 12 of his 13 players set to return next season and some talent stowed at the junior varsity level, Le Grand is primed for success for years to come.

So why then is there a sense that this has to be the season that LG makes a deep run in the playoffs?

Answer: Senior guard Jennifer Hansen.

"We've been telling the kids all year that this has to be the time," Crosby said. "Jennifer is such a big part of our success and what we do.

"There's definitely a sense of urgency that we have to make something happen now."

The reigning Sun-Star girls basketball player of the year is a difference maker.

With her offensive prowess and tenacity on the glass, as well as her move to the point guard position, Hansen has become a triple-double threat.

"Her moving to the point has really helped us out," Crosby said. "She has such good vision and she's s a much more confident dribbler this year.

"That's allowed Veronica Moreno and Miranda Flores the opportunity to spot up and find their shots."

As tremendous an athlete as Hansen is, it's the development of her supporting cast that has Crosby and company thinking section title.

"We came in really committed this year to not just being content with winning league and making the playoffs," Hansen said. "Every single player works hard every single practice and I think that's why we've gotten off to such a good start."

Moreno and Flores -- who along with Hansen formed Le Grand's Big Three a year ago -- have developed into budding stars, but the biggest difference is the regular contributions from Le Grand's role players.

Cindy Wilson has become an active force in the defensive post.

If Crosby can continue to develop her confidence offensively, Le Grand could have four bona fide scoring threats.

In addition to that, Crosby has depth.

Bertha Granados, Britney Sepian, Pressley Ringiesen and Maggie Mujica are all capable of offering big contributions on any given night.

"It used to be if you stopped (Hansen), that was it. We were done," Moreno said. "Our team is stepping up and helping her out.

"She's an amazing player, but when we play as a team we can be unbelievable."

Le Grand has been just that, opening the season 7-0 and earning victories over bigger schools like Tracy West, Buhach and a Foundation Game win over Golden Valley.

Crosby's team will get a better idea of where they are when they participate in the 164-team West Coast Jamboree starting today.

"We've been trying to schedule as many quality opponents as we can," Crosby said. "Last year we did it and it kind of backfired.

"But this year I think the early wins have given the girls a huge confidence boost."

LG's going to need to maintain that confidence throughout the season, because as Moreno said, "If something's going to happen, it's going to happen this year."

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

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