By Danica Rivera
The Granada Hills Charter (GHC) girls’ varsity basketball team is well known for its athletes’ commitment and competitiveness, sustaining an incredible undefeated 9-0 standing in the West Valley League and a 24-4 standing in the Valley League overall last year. As the graduated seniors from the recent season are no longer playing for GHC, prior players and new faces are preparing to bring home their well-deserved championship title this year.
During last season’s California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Open Division playoffs, GHC, unfortunately, lost to Westchester in the semifinals, by a score of 42-49. After the CIF Open Division playoffs, they later qualified for the CIF States playoffs, winning against Oaks Christian High School with a score of 52-45.
Traditionally El Camino Real Charter High School has been the girls’ varsity basketball team rival, but this year, there is a new contender, Birmingham Community Charter High School.
“We want to beat Birmingham since they won the city section playoffs and we had previously beaten them before,” junior Karma Paez said.
Although Birmingham was declared the champion of the CIF Open Division tournament, it was an exceptional season for our team last season. The upcoming season’s current team is confident they can retain that driven momentum once again.
“We have the potential and time from now, till the end of the season, to hopefully secure a ring,” junior Marianne Boco said.
Boco is a 2022 John R. Wooden Award winner and returning GHC varsity player, playing for the team since her freshman year. Established returning varsity players who are in their last year of playing for the team are seniors Alyssa Goche and Krystal Pineda. Goche joined the varsity team in her junior year, while Pineda has been playing for the team since her sophomore year.
“I’m confident in our team this year,” Goche said. “I think we need to work together a little more chemistry-wise through our plays, but other than that we’ll be good.”
Although there is a change in dynamics for the team, there is an undeniable connectedness between the girls, especially off the court.
“We have a really tight bond,” Pineda said. “The ability to have a group of people you can lean on when anything happens is really great and that’s what our team has. It’s like a sisterhood and a family. We have each other’s backs.”
Newcomer Alyssa Badua, an incoming freshman for girls’ varsity, acknowledged the closeness within the team.
“I haven’t been with them for a long time, but I still feel as if we’re very connected,” Badua said.
Junior Sophia Tarakhchyan, a transfer student from Heritage Christian School, is another varsity newcomer this season who was surprised by GHC’s varsity basketball program standards.
“Granada is much harder than what I was used to. You would think private schools would be harder but this place is beyond that,” Tarakhchyan said.
Other returning players who are also juniors in their third year on varsity, along with Boco and Paez, are Natalie Melendez and Emma Perez.
“We do have a much better program than other local high schools, running things better than most teams we’ve played against,” Melendez said.
GHC’s girls basketball program is one element that distinguishes the school from many other high schools around the valley. They practice together year-round as a program and implement certain plays of defense and offense, constructing elite players.
Perez described the particular preparations the team usually executes before their games.
“We all go to a classroom and watch films and learn about the team we’re playing against that day,” Perez said. “Everyone on our team has a different routine they partake in before each game but together, we all have warm-ups, certain drills we do, and a team talk without coaches and one with.”
Head coach Jared Honig has been coaching at GHC for almost 16 seasons, ten of those seasons with the varsity team. Honig strengthens the team’s physical capabilities and mentalities by having them work out in the weight room, do conditioning drills, do skill work after school, and play scrimmage games against other schools and with each other.
“Our main goal is getting better every day,” Honig said. “It’s our definition of success. As long as we put our full effort into each day, we keep improving, maximizing our individual talents and the team’s ability. It’ll hopefully equate to some wins and to achieving the best of our abilities whatever that means.”
Although league games begin in January, the team is currently preparing for tournament games beginning November 15 against Arroyo Grande High school.