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Bear River girls short on height, long on hustle

By: Mike Ray / Gold Country News Service
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Short on height and long on hustle.

That could be the storyline this winter for the Bear River girls basketball team as the under-sized Lady Bruins hope to make up for their lack of length down low with a flurry of baseline-to-baseline speed and quickness.

“We haven’t had that 6-2 post player in a long time,” said Bear River coach Jeff Bickmore. “But we’re used to it. We’ll play hard and aggressive to make up for it.”

This season, Bear River features no player on its roster taller than 5-foot-9 but Bickmore welcomes back a solid core of athletic players who a year ago helped the Bruins finish 7-3 in Pioneer Valley League play.

Following PVL action last season, the Lady Bruins caught fire in CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Div. IV playoffs as they advanced to the section semifinals before falling to Calaveras. Bear River then went on the road and posted a first round NorCal win at West Valley in Cottonwood before finally being eliminated by Div. IV powerhouse St. Mary’s of Berkeley.

“We do have some experience so that’s nice,” Bickmore said. “We’re looking to play up tempo if it’s there and good defense.”

One of Bickmore’s main concerns this season will be picking up the scoring slack left by the graduation of talented guard Jenn Meylor. Meylor, a three-year varsity starter for the Lady Bruins, led Bear River in scoring last year scoring 18 points per game. She graduated with 1,027 career points for Bear River.

“Jenn had a knack of being able to get to the foul line because she penetrated well,” Bickmore said. “A lot of time though last year we got caught watching Jenn. This year we won’t be able to do that.” 

Returning Lady Bruins who figure to be in the offensive mix this season include senior guards Savannah Welz and Cindy Solomon, junior forward Teryn Rath and guard Maddi Dunn, a junior who logged plenty of minutes last season as a sophomore in a 6th-man role.

Welz was an all-PVL selection a year ago. She’ll be joined by 5-6 dynamo Sarah Hagar in providing leadership. Hagar, a four-year varsity player, has led Bear River in rebounding the last two seasons.

“She’s our Rondo,” Bickmore said. “She hustles from start to finish. It’s nice having her back on the floor.”

Another player to keep an eye on this season is 5-9 junior forward Kaitlyn Reina, who missed all of last season with an injury. Playing in her first varsity game Monday night, Reina tallied 14 points to help the Lady Bruins get past Dixon in their CIF Foundation Game, 45-41.

“Kaitlyn and Teryn give us some presence in the paint,” Bickmore said. “We need to do a good job of recognizing when they’re open and get the ball inside.”

Once again the Lady Bruins will be playing a challenging preseason slate as Bear River will vie in December against Del Campo along with competing in tournaments at Marysville, Placer and Lincoln.

As far as PVL play goes, Bickmore foresees a tough fight for the title.

“It used to be you only had to play a couple of games and then just show up for the others but that’s not the case this season,” the Bear River coach said. “Colfax looks good again, Placer has a lot of size and Lincoln is vastly improved. Foothill and Center should both be good, too.”