Aptos High junior Laurel Southall will help with the rebuilding phase that the Mariners girls' basketball team is going through this sesaon. (Juan Reyes/The Pajaronian)

APTOS—The Aptos High girls’ basketball team found itself back in the rebuilding stage after losing a talented group of seniors due to graduation.

Mariners coach Bruce Funk is in a spot the program hasn’t been in for quite some time, but he believes they are ready to start over and rebuild.

“We’ve had a great run so far, but in reality I think our program is ready to rebuild,” he said. “We have a great group of girls and I’m ready to help develop them.”

The Mariners have had a rough stretch to start the season with a 3-11 overall record. They lost a close one to Soquel High, 34-31, in the teams’ Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League opener Tuesday evening. 

“We are just looking to improve every single day,” Funk said. “We will go game by game and strive to be more competitive each game we play.”

The roster is equipped with 10 players including three-year varsity player junior Laurel Southall. She currently has an average of 10 points per game—a team-best—and is also tallying 4.2 rebounds per game, according to MaxPreps.

“So far, games have been tougher than usual,” she said. “We have a really young team so it’s been harder to get everyone to bond together.”

Southall is Funk’s top returner and is fast and has a great shot after putting in extra work during the offseason.

“[Southall] is a great leader, I am excited to see her lead our team the next two years,” Funk said

Southall said this year’s group has seen its fair share of challenges but she’s confident they will adjust with more experience on the court.

“I think the harder we work, the faster we will figure it out,” she said.

Funk also spotlighted junior guard Guin Lines, who is currently second on the team with 7.7 points per game this season.  

The second year varsity player has come a long way since her first year by improving in everything from her shot to her handles, Funk added.

“[Lines’] shot has improved so much, and her IQ is getting to where it needs to be,” he said.

Funk won an SCCAL championship and a Central Coast Section Division III title in 2019 with standout players Natalia Ackerman and Gabby Giuffre—a pair of NCAA Division I prospects who went on to play at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and University of San Diego, respectively. 

The Mariners have earned three straight postseason berths under Funk including last year’s run to the D-III semifinals with Jasmine Ackerman and Jaylen Dang, who graduated last year.

“Since I’ve been here we have been lucky to always have talented groups, we lost a lot of great seniors and we had some players not come out this year… it will be tough,” Funk said.

In the past 10 years, Aptos made seven consecutive appearances in the CCS postseason, including three section titles (2016-17, ‘18-19, ‘19-20) in five championship game appearances.

The Mariners also earned berths to the NorCal playoffs four straight seasons from 2016-2019. They’ve had lots of success in the past decade but now they are ready to start a new chapter in their program.

“We have had our ups and downs to start, we just have to be patient,” Funk said. “We have the potential, it’s just going to take some time.”

The Mariners (3-11, 0-1) currently own 11 league titles in the program’s history with the last one being in 2019. 

They compete against Santa Cruz (9-5, 1-0)—the heavy favorites to win the SCCAL crown—Harbor (5-4), San Lorenzo Valley (9-3), Scotts Valley (2-10, 0-1) and Soquel (6-6, 1-0).

Southall says regardless of the start, it won’t change their work ethic.

“I just want to show up to every practice and game and build that confidence to know we can win every game,” she said. “We are going to be that team that will never give up regardless of score.” 

The Mariners continue SCCAL play at home against Harbor on Friday at 6pm. 

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