While the Class 1A state tournament will ultimately determine whether the Wendover girls basketball team has truly “arrived” as one of the state’s top programs, the Wildcats’ success this season has shown they’re at least on the right path.
And, surprisingly, they’re doing it with no seniors on the roster.
Remember, this is a team that — extenuating circumstances or not, though having to drive up from Green River the morning of the game didn’t help — put up just five points in a loss to Tooele last season. That’s not five points in one quarter. That’s five points in an entire 32-minute game. That game in mid-December 2016 made the Wildcats appear light-years even from respectability, let alone excellence.
But Wendover didn’t let last season’s struggles break it. Instead, the Wildcats came into this year eager to show what they’re truly capable of. They won 10 games all of last season, and Tuesday’s road win over Tintic was their 14th this season. And while coach Kate Henderson admits that the Wildcats’ schedule hasn’t been the most challenging — early in the season, the Wildcats were the ones holding opponents to single digits — a 14-4 overall record represents impressive progress.
Again, this is a team with no seniors. We’re only just beginning to see what Wendover can do on the basketball court. Their roster includes eight juniors and one sophomore. They’ll all be back next season, having gained valuable experience throughout this season and the upcoming state tournament. Most importantly, they will have learned how to win — and attitude is as important as talent when it comes to building a winning team.
But, make no mistake. The Wildcats are exceedingly talented. Adri Delgadillo dominated Tuesday’s game against Tintic in the post, and point guard Yanely Duenas is dangerous whether she puts the ball on the floor and drives to the basket or she starts shooting from the perimeter. Sophomore Alana Henderson is averaging better than nine rebounds per game and has three double-doubles this year. In 1A ball, you need contributions from everywhere, and Wendover’s getting them from players forced to play big roles at a young age.
And while Wendover has the potential to make some noise at this year’s state tournament, just imagine what the Wildcats will be able to do next year with eight seniors on the roster. There are some schools in Class 1A who barely have eight girls in their entire senior class, and Wendover will have that many on its varsity roster. Even Tooele, a Class 4A school roughly 10 times Wendover’s size, only has five seniors on its varsity team this year.
So, if the Wildcats aren’t quite a finished product yet, they’re getting awfully close. And that should be a source of excitement for Utah’s westernmost school.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He would like to figure out what they put in the water in Wendover to create such successful basketball teams this year. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.