‘We’re going to keep building’: Gutierrez and Seabury girls look to build off foundation set this season
photo by: Carter Gaskins
It took five games, but following a convincing 40-13 victory over Veritas, a young Bishop Seabury girls basketball team gained some much-needed confidence.
“After that Veritas game, they realized we can be a pretty good team and we can compete with anyone as long as we kind of do what we do and worry about the little things,” Seabury coach Ryan Gutierrez said in a phone interview.
The Seahawks had previously won their first game of the season, which Gutierrez said was a welcomed surprise. But the victory over Veritas on Jan. 17 “kind of lit a fire up under them.” Everything Gutierrez was working on with the girls was coming to fruition in real time.
“It was a game where we could run our offense,” Gutierrez said. “We could dictate what was kind of happening on the defensive end of the court. I think it was a game where the girls really just had a lot of fun.”
That fun atmosphere is something that Gutierrez is trying to bring to this Seabury team. The Seahawks may be small in number — seven girls were on the varsity roster this year — but Gutierrez sees a lot of potential. He’s known this group since they were in the sixth and seventh grade.
“We have a good relationship, a good bond,” Gutierrez said. “We all know that every single person is going to have to contribute for us to be successful. So that maintains everyone’s role on the team, keeps everybody engaged, it keeps everybody active.”
The Seahawks finished the year 5-14, but Gutierrez isn’t as concerned with that record right now. He continues to emphasize to his team that they’re creating something special, which is what he’d have to remind some of his players after a loss.
“(I’d tell them), ‘It’s not about winning every game. It’s about getting better today than we were yesterday and continuing to build,'” Gutierrez said. “So in those moments I would reiterate to them, ‘We’re young, and all I ask of you is that you compete. As long as we compete, we’re going to keep building.'”
The foundation has been built around three freshmen and four sophomores, with the trio of newcomers — guards Reagan Thayer, Oona Nelson and Sofia Gonzalez — being key contributors early on.
“They definitely helped as far as ball pressure and having some guards that can put the ball in the hole,” Gutierrez said. “We’re all pretty new to the game. But those three freshmen, they really were the backbone of our scoring and our offense.”
Gonzalez and Nelson have also been significant on the defensive end, taking charge at the top of the Seahawks’ zone sets.
“They’re kind of our vocal leaders of the zone,” Gutierrez said. “They’ve become more comfortable in the cerebral (aspect) of running the zone. So we’re definitely more comfortable in a zone, but ideally we would like to move to some more man-to-man ball pressure (defensive looks) in the future.”
What that will take is becoming “more comfortable with the speed of the game,” according to Gutierrez.
“Being able to stay in front of their person they’re guarding so that we don’t have to rely on help defense as much,” Gutierrez said. “So just being able to catch up physically to the speed of the game will definitely help. And I think if we can get a couple more girls on our roster, we’ll definitely be able to make some switches to man.”
That’s not to say that the Seahawks aren’t physically capable, though. Oftentimes Gutierrez would tell Nelson and Thayer that even though the Seahawks might not be the best team on the floor, they’re still some of the best athletes.
That especially makes sense given Nelson’s cross-country background.
“So some of our strengths were getting out into the fast break and really let Oona use her speed and athleticism in the open court to make plays for us,” Gutierrez said. “Really just understanding what our capabilities are as a basketball team and as basketball players.”
Gutierrez still admits there is plenty of room to grow. Handling ball pressure from opposing defenses and working through frustration when shots aren’t falling are two main obstacles.
“I think they wanted to be able to go out there and compete and win basketball games at a high level,” Gutierrez said. “Just with their age and their inexperience, we’re not quite there yet.”
But once again, Gutierrez reminds them there’s a bigger plan in place.
“So just dealing with their frustration with the game as a whole and then kind of coming together and realizing, keeping the big picture in mind and understanding this is a small step in our journey together,” Gutierrez said.
What Gutierrez is most proud of with this team is the growth, and he can’t wait to get back in the gym and prepare for the next step in their journey.
“Day one, specifically my freshmen, they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into,” Gutierrez said. “Then by about midway through the season, they really took in the role in operating and running our offense and understanding they’re going to have to put the ball in the hole.
“They definitely rose to the occasion, their confidence grew throughout the year and I think built a pretty strong foundation moving forward.”