(L-R) Nicole Collins, Jasmine Joseph, Simone Thompson, Siera Thompson, Deandrea Toler, Rejane Verin. Photo by Ken Brooks
Despite coming one game short of a state title appearance, Serra girls (30-4) still accomplished some of their lofty goals. Their plan included winning a basketball tournament, winning the Del Rey League, the Division IV-AA Southern Section championship, and the state championship. That vision and attitude has been cultivated for five seasons under head coach Mckinsey Hadley.
Before Serra eventually captured its third consecutive southern section championship, Hadley was unsure of what to expect from this year’s roster. The talent was obvious after the goals were established, and they had gone on an early season seven-game winning streak. What was not clear was who would step up as a leader. Then during the holiday season, they were without center Rajane Verin who returned to her native home in France.
Serra participated in the rugged Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona and took one on the chin at the hands of nationally ranked No 19 Long Beach Poly. However, the girls had accumulated seven wins in eight games without UNLV bound Verin. They also had knocked off national power, Mater Dei. “When we went 7-1 without her, that’s when I realized we had a good team”, said Hadley. “We could play nine to ten players, and that depth allows us to be a running team”.
While preseason battles prepared Serra for league play, the strength of the league was also a test of their readiness for the playoffs. It included recent Division III-A Southern Sectional champion Bishop Amat, which won the league last year; St. Bernard the Division IV-AA southern sectional and regional semi-finalist; and Bishop Montgomery competitive to a third place finish. St. Bernard split the league matches with Serra this season. It has also shared the league championship in two of the last three years.
“The Del Rey league is one of the toughest in the country”, said Hadley. “It prepares us because the league is a playoff before the playoffs.” Despite sharing the league title, the Cavaliers’ most notable win was in the sectional championship over Windward when they were the country’s No 4 team. It bolted Serra up as high as 18th in the USA Today national rankings. But their run for a state title will have to resume next season.
Hadley also talked enthusiastically about having an off the court attitude. “Players should be a reflection of the coach. I try to be a good person, and I want our students to be good people,” He added. I want to have a positive influence on students and be able to help them even after they graduate. I want them to be loving people above anything. And if we win some games along the way, that’s good too.”
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