ANTIOCH -- Deer Valley High's girls basketball team opens its Bay Valley Athletic League season Jan. 17 at crosstown rival Antioch. The Wolverines (9-4) are favorites to reclaim the league championship after finishing second to Heritage last year. However, the competition will be tough, with Pittsburg also 9-4 and Liberty 9-5 in nonleague play.
"The girls are coming together pretty well," coach Mark Hurtado said. "We've got a lot of strong senior leadership. Our defense has been getting better."
Deer Valley played in the Diamond Division of the West Coast Jamboree from Dec. 27-30, losing to eventual runner-up Narbonne-Harbor City in the first round, 56-38, then losing a tough one to Santa Rosa, 68-65.
The Wolverines then closed out the tournament with a 70-34 win over Oakland Tech -- usually one of the top teams in the Oakland Athletic League.
Hurtado pointed to his team's play in the ABC Tournament at Amador Valley and the Dougherty Valley Tournament as high points of the nonleague slate. Deer Valley won the former, beating Wilcox-Santa Clara in the final, and was runner-up in the latter, falling to always-tough Berkeley in the final.
State-ranked Salesian beat the Wolverines at Deer Valley, 76-55.
Senior swing Maranne Johnson leads the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game with sophomore swing Jordan Morales next at 11.3. Senior guard Sierra Dixon is averaging 9.7. Junior center Brandy Williams is averaging 9.3 rebounds per game and has been a huge factor in the team's success, according to Hurtado.
Senior forward Alejandra Cephas, headed to the University of Nevada next year, has been very consistent with 7.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Deer Valley has a couple of tough nonleague games left on the schedule. On Jan. 25, the Wolverines travel to Sacramento to face Sheldon. And on Feb. 1, they will host one of the best teams in the state in Carondelet.
"Their style fits ours so it's going to be an up and down kind of game," Hurtado said. "If they're hitting their 3s, it's going to be a long night. We have the athletes to run with them."
The goals, from this point on, are simple.
"We want to win league so we can get a good seed for (the) North Coast (Section playoffs)," Hurtado said, adding that a berth and a high seed for the California Interscholastic Federation playoffs was next on the list.