APTOS–The Cabrillo College women’s basketball team is on the right path to capture a third straight conference title.
The Seahawks opened up Coast Conference South Division play with a 90-50 win against Hartnell College on Wednesday.
Coach John Wilson said the main objective is to win the Coast Conference first, which means believing in themselves and starting off with a win in conference play.
“Anything after that is icing on the cake,” Wilson said.
Cabrillo finished co-champions of the Coast Conference South Division with Mission College. The last time they won back-to-back conference titles and a postseason game, bell bottoms and disco was in style.
Cabrillo advanced to the third round of the NorCal CCCAA playoffs for the first time since 1979.
The Seahawks were ranked 17th in the state in last year’s coaches’ poll. They are currently unranked.
They’re also without the reigning Coast Conference South MVP, Heleyna Hill, who continued her playing career at Dominican University in San Rafael.
Cabrillo also said goodbye to guard Teal Maixner and forwards Maddy Miller and Nthabi Anderson-Bahr.
It’s a major overhaul but the Seahawks do have six returning players including starters Michaela Thornton and Savanah Quintana-Martin, the conference’s sixth woman of the year.
“I had to do a lot of changes, work over the summer, work on myself and do a lot things to become a starter,” Quintana-Martin said.
Quintana-Martin said she has some big shoes to fill with Hill not returning to the team. She said she’s trying to create what Hill brought to the table each game.
“It just motivates me,” Quintana-Martin said.
Wilson said the sophomores have taken over the program. He believes they know what it takes to put themselves in a good position to win the conference title once again.
Quintana-Martin is an important piece and Wilson said the rest of the team feeds off of her energy throughout the game.
“(Quintana-Martin) is the coach on the court,” Wilson said. “When Savana goes, the team goes.”
Quintana-Martin has a strong supporting cast behind her. Wilson said he’s been experimenting with various lineups on the court, which includes Thornton who he mentioned is one of the best shooters in the conference.
Kenedi Walters, a Scotts Valley High alumna, who is a great shooter with experience.
Quintana-Martin said she’s noticed that they don’t play selfish ball, meaning that each player looks out for each other to make get the best shot possible.
“To come all together and play as a team, win as a team,” she said.
The roster also includes Abbi Saxton, an Aptos High alumnus, who left for one year to study at the University of Arkansas. She returned home and contacted Wilson that she wanted to play competitive basketball again.
Saxton said she’s excited to have a chance to play alongside some players that she used to compete against in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League not so long ago.
“We have the opportunity to come together and play, which doesn’t happen very often,” Saxton said. “It’s been nice to connect with everyone and be on the same team instead of playing against each other.”
Saxton has championship experience, helping the Mariners win a Central Coast Section Division III title in the 2016-17 season.
“She’s brought a lot to our team this year,” Wilson said.
Sophomore Julisa Vega, a Watsonville High alumna, was also a player who left for a season and decided to come back home. Wilson said it’s a common thing for players to leave and return to play at Cabrillo.
“Having local talent means we get more people in the stands and the community knows about these young ladies,” Wilson said.
Wilson said having the local talent means it’s also a nice opportunity for them to play on the same team.
“They’ve probably been competing since junior high and all of a sudden they get to be as one and work together,” Wilson said.
Saxton said they haven’t been able to play as a full unit because of injuries, including a broken rib she suffered earlier this season. She said it’s been a process of getting each player going at the same time.
Saxton said they’ve been communicating much better as of lately and believes they’re starting to mesh a bit more as the season hits the midway point.
They’ll continue conference action on the road against Gavilan College on Wednesday with tipoff slated at 7 p.m.
“Games are why we play basketball,” Saxton said. “The energy on the court, the warmup music, when they call your name… we’ve been practicing since August, all of our time is going into these games.”
Editor’s Note:This article will be published in the Jan. 10 edition of The Pajaronian.