Visiting Jurupa Valley Rubidoux High never had a chance.
The Lady Falcons, who traveled to Banning for a girls’ basketball showdown in the Lady Broncos’ gymnasium had actually played them close a couple weeks earlier.
Banning’s Athletic Director, Qua’sand Lewis, Jr., seemed full of energy over this group of players. He called to report this was a special season. Why not? He’d helped pick the Lady Broncos’ new coach, Kimie Hawkins, to replace three-year coach Amber Fagins, who left honorably to take care of her family.
Fagins’ predecessor had been Mark Kline, now the boys’ coach, who led the Lady Broncos on a couple of playoff runs dating back to 2012.
Right now, Banning girls’ hoops might be the hottest program on campus. There’ve been six straight seasons of playoff appearances.
Pressure on Lewis was, perhaps, centered around picking the right coach. It hasn’t been an easy season. There was a fight at Perris High that landed a couple of kids out of action for the East Valley Tournament.
Moreno Valley got a forfeit win over Banning when the Lady Broncos’ floor had flooded. This was after Mo Val had requested the game be shifted over to Banning for some reason. Rain. Flooding. Gym unplayable. A forfeit?
The league, said Lewis, ruled MoVal a forfeit victory.
Huh? A fight for another day, perhaps.
Against Rubidoux, Hawkins had her big girls, namely Haili Newton, Rosa Perez and Andrea William-Hill, guarding the basket. No Lady Falcon was allowed in the key without a struggle.
Some of Banning’s returners – Richara Grandberry, Newton and Maria Rocha – were part of the assault on Rubidoux. The Lady Falcons had a kid, Kayla Laning, who was averaging 16 points a game.
She left with seven.
It was all-out GTB in Banning’s gym – Grand Theft Basketball.
Grandberry pulled off nine thefts alone.
Markayla Allen had five. A handful other Lady Broncos, including Marshay Anderson, chipped in with a dozen total.
Teams without ballhandlers going up against full-court pressure is like checking your gas tank with a match.
The Lady Broncos were firing away, turning turnovers into points. They took away Rubidoux’s spirit. As Banning’s connection with the Mountain Valley League – San Bernardino, Pacific, Moreno Valley, Vista del Lago and Rubidoux – comes to an end, Lewis hints that it hasn’t been an easy fit for Banning.
He won’t say much, but athletic directors at those other campuses have their own unifying bunch. Banning’s kind of an outcast, perhaps. Lewis is more concerned running his own campus.
You had to excuse Lewis for a little over management. He’s young. Vigorous. Competitive. Classy. Thoughtful. A couple games earlier, he’d directed Hawkins to call off her team’s rabid full-court pressure. The game was already out of hand. Something about sportsmanship.
In the late stages of Rubidoux’s game, he signaled down to his first-year coach to call off the press again. She gazed up at him, perhaps, snarling. She’d already done pulled off the press.
It was Senior Night for Banning. A smiling group of 12th graders – Grandberry, Rocha, Allen and Perez – were acknowledged. By Hawkins. By assistant Gabe Mendoza. By parents and fellow students. Lewis was standing nearby, applauding.
Fagins came out of the stands to lend her love.
All those smiles disappeared once third quarter action opened. That 24-16 halftime lead turned into a 44-20 advantage when Banning didn’t allow a single field goal in the third quarter.
Hawkins, incidentally, is a Moreno Valley kid that played at State JUCO powerhouse Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut – check out their record, folks – before showing up to play Division 1 hoops at Southern Utah College in Cedar City.
That’s background very few Banning coaches possess. She spent a full pre-season sizing up her squad. In rolled Maya Fragran, a freshman, sometime during mid-season, from San Diego. Against Rubidoux, she knocked down a trio of three-points, had three steals and netted 15 points.
William-Hill came with a little fire in her eye – four steals, six rebounds, a robust blocked shot and four points.
Grandberry added 15. Allen had eight.
Final score – Banning 58, Rubidoux 23.