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New culture, new coach has brought Yuma Catholic back to respectability
Makena Zamora cried after many games.
Her tears were born out of sadness and frustration.
“Coming from junior high where we were undefeated for two years and then coming here and losing, it was just horrible because we were used to winning every game,” Zamora said.
She wasn't alone. Players such as Sydney Mixon, Zamora's teammate since those glorious days at Woodard Junior High, said the situation was bad.
“Everyone wanted to quit,” Mixon said. “They didn't want to play anymore.”
That was the scene last year with the Yuma Catholic girls basketball team. This season, however, has been a different story.
After finishing the 2009-10 season a horrifying 0-18 with just one loss by less than 10 points, the Shamrocks have turned over a new leaf. YC enters Tuesday's contest at Tonopah Valley with a 4-6 record.
Although the Shamrocks aren't exactly world beaters, they are also a far cry from where they were a year ago. The biggest reason for their improvement has been a change in culture.
The man who has helped with the turnaround has been first year-coach Bob McGalliard. He also had to endure last season as he watched a few contests from the stands.
“I kind of felt bad for them because they were on the short end of some big, lopsided scores,” McGalliard said. “I'd see them at school the next day and they talked to me a little bit. I didn't really have much to say. I didn't have any answers for them.”
But when athletic director Rhett Stallworth approached McGalliard last spring about being the team's head coach, he said he didn't hesitate. He also had a plan.
The first thing McGalliard said he did after accepting the job was meet with the players and their parents. He said he told them he wanted to instill pride back into the program and didn't want players to walk around campus with shrugged shoulders and telling people they were a part of an 0-18 team.
McGalliard's next step was to get the team to become competitive. He stressed improvement every day, which players said meant starting from scratch, learning fundamentals, and longer and more intense practices.
Among the laundry list of items McGalliard drilled in his squad were dribbling, passing, rebounding and defense, which he said has improved significantly.
“When we scrimmaged with Gila Ridge in the offseason, our (man-to-man) defense was pathetic,” McGalliard said. “But now, we're understanding help principles.”
For freshman forward Mary Terkelsen, she realized the importance of fundamentals after the season-opening loss to Tonopah Valley.
“I was expecting to come in and we were going to beat them. I was just expecting that,” Terkelsen said. “But then it occurred to me that we really do need to work. When we lost that first game, I was just kind of like we did good but we could've done better.”
The culture change has had an impact on all involved.
For freshmen, the rapid rise from laughingstock to respectability has validated their decision to join the team, which some of their peers questioned in the beginning.
“I really just thought that this year would be better,” said freshman point guard Madison Brazeel.
For the holdovers, the steady stream of tears they once shed no longer exists.
“When we played Kofa and we lost by eight, that was one of the most fun basketball games I've ever played in my life,” said junior guard Annie Curtis-Sanchez. “They can't just come and stomp all over us. They have to actually try their hardest to win and sometimes, they have to try more than their hardest. And I think that's what feels the best.”
Cheng Sio can be reached at email@example.com