POLACCA — Hopi High School’s girls basketball team hopes to sneak into the playoffs this year.
Last year, Hopi finished with a 2-12 conference record.
Hopi High Coach Gwen Hobbs Grant, who took over the helm from Rick Baker, has higher hopes for this season.
Point guard Gwendolyn Mariano, a senior, will have the task of running the offense. Cindy Lee, a junior, will be the shooting guard. Eudora Nodestine and Delaine Numkena, both seniors, will play the forward positions. Deidre Jones, a sophomore, will be at the post.
The key substitutes are the following: Savanna Anderson, a sophomore, at point guard. Tracy Honani, another sophomore, will be the shooting guard. Iva Sahneyah and Antoinette Antonio, both seniors, will be filling in at the forward slots. Nadia Nelson, a freshman, will also be a backup guard.
Coach Grant said all of the seniors are team leaders.
“They lead vocally and by example. They know the expectations,” she said.
Grant, a former All-American at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, said Hopi will not finish last this year.
“We should be about fifth,” she said about the Lady Bruins’ chances in the eight team division.
The top four teams make it to the state playoffs, and that is something the Hopi High girls will shoot to obtain.
Coach Grant said she has a young team that is working on fundamentals. She wants the Lady Bruins to go as far as they can in the 3A North Conference.
“This year will be our first moving up the chain,” she said. “We’re starting from the bottom up. As soon as we get our fundamentals down, such as our footwork, we’ll be alright. We’re working on it and I expect us to get better as the year goes on.”
Coach Grant said the Lady Bruins will have their normal running game on offense this year, but should also be able to score in the half-court setting. She said defense will be more of a challenge because the players are still learning fundamentals.
Coach Grant said Hopi should be strong on the backboards. Deidre Jones and Delaine Numkena will lead the way.
“But some of our guards are quick at getting up for rebounds,” the coach said.
There are 14 players on the team.
Coach Grant, who previously coached at Ganado High School, said she is looking forward to coaching this team.
“I saw a lot of talent here. If I can teach them what I learned then I can help them reach their goals, such as playing college basketball. I can show them what it takes to play at that level,” she said.
Coach Grant added that she believes sports help students with academics.
“If they’re not passing, then they can’t play, so they have to work twice as hard. Sports has a lot of impact on their education,” she said.
Coach Grant said she is glad that her husband, Shawn, is her assistant coach.
“It’s more exciting with him here. This way we can put our heads together. He also played college basketball,” she said.
Gwen Grant played basketball at Navajo Academy in Farmington and at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. She was the 2A Player of the Year twice and drew all-state honors four times at Navajo Academy. Aside from All-American honors, she earned the MVP at the Big West Tournament while at UNLV.
Grant earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from UNLV. Shawn played basketball at East Central Community College in Mississippi.
(Stan Bindell is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)