02/14/08

02/14/2008 4:03 AM

02/14/2008 9:53 AM

Large Schools

TIARE JENNINGS
Pitman basketball

Tiare Jennings led Pitman High to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs as a point guard last season. She's got the Pride headed to the playoffs this season, as well, though she's done it by taking on a very different role.

"I have her playing mostly as a post player," said Pitman coach Shawne Arnold, whose 5-foot-8-inch senior is averaging 16.2 points and 8.8 rebounds. "I lacked height this year and needed her underneath the basket rather than handling the ball outside."

Jennings had 17 points and 23 rebounds in a 47-44 win over Buhach Colony, a victory that sealed the Pride's playoff berth.

"Our team had a tough preseason and I think that played an important role in how the end of our season is wrapping up," Arnold noted. "I wanted to challenge the girls in the beginning and show them what they needed to do in order to be competitive in our league."

— RICHARD T. ESTRADA

BRYCE GERHARDT
Oakdale basketball

Opening Valley Oak League play with 10 consecutive losses would be enough to turn off some players, but Bryce Gerhardt never let the losses affect his performance.

"He is a great example for the team and the youth in our community," coach Jeremy Fields said. "His role includes everything from running the point at times to be being our first option on offense. He is also a great defender because of his work ethic."

It was the 5-foot-11-inch guard's offense that set the tone, though, as he totaled 45 points in upsets of Manteca and Central Valley. He had seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals vs. Manteca -- including the assist for the game-winner in overtime -- and 10 assists and six rebounds against Central Valley.

"He hits jumpers, takes the ball to the basket, gets to the free-throw line, and is in the passing lanes for steals and easy transition buckets," Fields said.

— RICHARD T. ESTRADA
Small Schools

BRIANA DeVRIES
Ripon Christian basketball

After losing seven seniors from last year's team, Ripon Christian coach Kirk Tillman was looking for an on-court leader to provide some guidance for an inexperienced team.

"(We) asked Briana to be team captain and provide leadership," he said. "Briana provided that. She is a quiet leader, not known for being expressive, but leading by example."

The 5-foot-9-inch center DeVries, one of the district's top rebounders, totaled 48 points, 26 rebounds and 14 steals in wins over Riverbank and Escalon -- securing RC a playoff berth.

"She excels in positioning herself under the boards and anticipating ball location. Rebounding is something she is passionate about and works at," Tillman said.

RC will likely be No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

"The low seed is no matter," Tillman said. "It has been a few years since the Lady Knights made the playoffs so we are excited for the opportunity."

— RICHARD T. ESTRADA

DABRAIL HENTON
Modesto Christian basketball

Playing alongside two Division I recruits demands a combination of patience and persistence, talents that Dabrail Henton displayed while helping Modesto Christian to the Trans-Valley League championship.

Henton's patience comes from his willingness to make sure his prominent teammates, D.J. Seeley (Cal) and Reeves Nelson (UCLA), get the ball in the right spots. His persistence comes from his willingness to stay on top of his game and contribute when the need arises -- such as when Seeley went down with an ankle injury.

Henton's playing time increased, and he responded by providing points for the Crusaders. Even with Seeley's return last week, Henton continued scoring, getting 19 in an 87-45 win over Hughson and then 21 in a 108-75 victory over Bay Area power Skyline of Oakland.

The 6-foot-3-inch senior is averaging 10 points and six rebounds, as well as an assist and a block per game.

— RICHARD T. ESTRADA

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