Pajaro Valley High senior Annel Andrade and the Grizzlies girls' basketball team will play their first PCAL Santa Lucia Division game of the season against Pacific Collegiate School on Friday at 7pm. (Juan Reyes/The Pajaronian file photo)

WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley girls basketball program has been in the rebuilding phase for the past three seasons, constantly improving year after year. 

Grizzlies coach Mark Harris is hoping the pieces to the puzzle are in place so they can finally have the breakout season they’ve been working at. 

“We have had a slow start but despite losing players and with a tough preseason our players are handling it amazingly,” he said.

The Grizzlies have had somewhat of a roller coaster start to the season with a 5-7 overall record through Jan. 4. 

The second-year coach said they did start out a little slow coming out of the gate, yet he believes now they’re finally clicking as a team.

“Team chemistry has been different this year, we lost a few girls to grades and injuries so it took a while for us to adjust but we are getting there,” Harris said.

This season, the Grizzlies have 11 players on the roster including top returner Annel Andrade, a senior guard who is currently averaging a team-high 9.8 points per game. 

Andrade also isn’t afraid to let it fly from deep as she leads with 17 3-pointers made this season. 

Harris added that Andrade is a real leader on and off the court. Plus, her basketball IQ is incredible and continues to learn as the season progresses. 

Andrade said all the players needed some extra time to be on the same page after a slow start to the season.

“We are starting to play good, it took us a while but we are starting to click and gelling as a team,” she said.

Another sharpshooter to watch for is senior and two-year varsity starter Brianna Hernandez. She is currently second on the team in both points scored (60) and 3-pointers made (10) behind Andrade.

Hernandez is transitioning to the shooting guard position this season and has done a really great job at adjusting, Harris added.

“Brianna does a good job at facilitating the ball, you can just tell the offense runs smoothly when she’s on the court,” he said.

Harris also highlighted senior Natasha Santana, who is probably their most athletic player that can play anywhere her coach tells her to.

“She isn’t afraid to move around the court,” Harris said.

Junior guard Katie Ortega was called up from the junior varsity team earlier this year. She continues to learn on a daily basis, but Harris noted that she’s eager to get better and progressing at a rapid speed.

The Grizzlies captured their first-ever league title in the 2018-2019 season, winning the Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia Division crown with a perfect 10-0 mark in league play.

They finished that same season with a 21-5 overall record and advanced to the Central Coast Section Division III quarterfinals where they lost to Saratoga. 

Last season, Pajaro Valley finished fourth with a 5-6 record in the PCAL Santa Lucia Division. The Grizzlies are back on the hunt to capture their second league title in the program’s history. 

Harris feels confident the team will continue to grow and expects to see improvements.

“We have a solid team, I see us being competitive in league and making a run at the title,” Harris said. 

The Grizzlies (5-7) had last week’s league opener against Rancho San Juan postponed due to flood watch warnings. PV was supposed to return to action Friday against Santa Catalina, but that game was also rescheduled for another date and time yet to be determined. 

The Grizzlies will compete against Gonzales (2-3), Marina (1-3), Pacific Collegiate School (2-1), Rancho San Juan (4-8) and Santa Catalina (0-2) for a shot at the league championship.

Pajaro Valley returns to league action against PCS on Friday at 7pm.

Andrade—who plans to extend her career at Hartnell College next year—said she wants to make her senior season one to remember.

“I think we have a good chance just like any team in our league,” Andrade said. “I am just going to continue to play hard and make as many memories as I can with my teammates.”

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