The La Cañada High School varsity girls’ basketball program had several hurdles to clear entering the winter season with a new head coach and a roster that includes one senior, four juniors and six sophomores.
“I wouldn’t say it was a smooth process, but it was on the smooth side,” said LCHS head coach Owen Keenan, who succeeded Sarah Beattie. “It’s a different voice, different gender and different expectation level. It was smooth once they knew what I was doing. I knew going in there would be a period of trust that has to be established on both ends. I’m the new guy coming in, so they wondered what I was going to do. They’ve adapted well and they understand my style of coaching and game planning, making the process smoother.”
The tough schedule has challenged his young players, and after 11 games played, Keenan is starting to see his team coming together and playing his brand of basketball. The Spartans most recently defeated Sun Valley Village Christian, 45-31, in the Burbank Burroughs Tournament.
“They’ve been good tournaments and they’re good for us,” he said. “We’ve played tough teams, which is good for us because we’re young. [After defeating the Crusaders], I told the girls I really thought we had taken a step in the right direction toward maturity. They did what they were told.”
The Spartans (7-4 overall record) were consistent on offense, built a lead and maintained it throughout the game. Keenan was glad to see his players learn how to win a game but knows there room for growth.
“At the beginning, we played 32 minutes the same way,” Keenan said. “They didn’t understand before but we know how to win. We just have to figure out how to play from behind with urgency. In games when we were behind, we couldn’t find the right method to get back into the game until there was a minute left in the fourth quarter.”
Though there are more lessons to be learned, Keenan is confident the Spartans will be ready to compete for the Rio Hondo League championship.
“We want to finish the tournament and have our tournament and finish those out so we can get to league,” Keenan said. “We’ll be ready to go.”
That confidence comes from the fact that his players are starting to buy into their coach’s system, especially the leaders.
“Brooke [Yasuda] has been great,” Keenan said of his lone senior. “She understands the situation and the youth of the team. We graduated a lot, and she’s been leading by example and has been a great leader.”
The underclassmen are also stepping up for La Cañada, most notably the juniors.
“Emmie [Lew] is first on that list,” Keenan said. “Morgan [Tsujihara] is another player who is very vocal on the court and the bench, as well. The young girls really look up to both of them. The other girls are just looking for their time on the court and to step up.”
La Cañada will continue to play the Burroughs Tournament through Saturday.