The Central Valley girls basketball team entered this week with an undefeated record (13-0), a lock on the No. 1 slot in the Associated Press girls Class 4A basketball poll and an as-yet undefined future.
Not bad for a team that features only one senior.
“It’s not the way you usually see it,” coach Freddie Rehkow said. “You usually see teams with three or four seniors in their starting lineup and a lot of experience.”
CV has that kind of experience on the roster, but how the Bears obtained that experience is likely a new paradigm for the world of basketball.
“We had a great summer,” Rehkow said. “We played a lot of these other top teams and we had a lot of success. This is a team where quite a few of these girls have played together growing up and a lot of them have played against each other before. A lot of them are really good friends and they’ve been building on that team chemistry from the word go.”
The Bears got their basketball experience playing summer league and club basketball.
“When we all came together, we already knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses because we’d already played so much with and against each other,” said Hailey Christopher, who stepped in at post this year to fill the role graduated senior Madison Hovren played last year. “We’ve all pretty much accepted those strengths and weaknesses for what they are and we’ve worked hard every day in practice to overcome them and take them out of our game.”
As Rehkow puts it, the Bears are a team with a high basketball IQ and a willingness to sacrifice. The grades have come in, he points out with pride. The Bears have a team grade-point average of 3.8.
“This is an unselfish team,” he said. “Anytime you have the leaders on a team in terms of points never look at the stats and only care about the outcome of games you have something special. All of these girls work hard. When you look at a team as a coach, you want a team that gives you everything they have and that holds each other accountable. With this team there has never been a bit of dissension.”
Rehkow said the team’s focus is locked on one goal – playing its best basketball at the end of the year.
“We’re totally not focused on being undefeated because that takes away from our main goal,” Rehkow said. “If a team beats us, congratulations! Good for you! We don’t care. We just care about getting better each and every day.
“The season is a process,” Christopher said. “We haven’t come close to playing our best basketball yet. We just want to continue with the process and let it keep going. We don’t even want to try to picture what our best basketball could be at this point. In some ways picturing it would, in some ways, put a limit on it.”
Christopher has been a strong addition to the lineup.
“I knew that I would be replacing Madie and I thought about it quite a bit,” Christopher said. “I’m just trying to do the best I can do.”
“Hailey is just a great kid and she plays with a lot of joy,” Rehkow said. She just goes out there and fills the middle and grabs as many rebounds as she can.”
“You just have to love getting rebounds, I guess,” Christopher said. “I do.”
Christopher said she and her teammates are aware of the long legacy that comes with playing basketball at Central Valley. In some ways, though, she said it’s hard to get a full grasp on what that legacy means.
That will come after they’re done.
“It’s been really cool,” she said. “Some of those players have come back and they’ve dropped by practice and they’ve talked to coach Rehkow. And we’ve met some of them. It will be nice figuring out where we fit in.”
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