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Vazquez girls hoops: The turnaround

Vasquez girls hoops persevered to make the postseason

Posted: February 16, 2010 10:26 p.m.
Updated: February 17, 2010 4:30 a.m.

From left, Rachelle Beaudoin backs in teammate Christy Lundin as Sylvia Escobedo calls for a pass during the Vasquez High girls basketball team's practice in Acton on Tuesday. Vasquez will play a CIF-Southern Section playoff game for the first time in school history on Thursday.

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The first week of November, brand new Vasquez High girls varsity basketball coach Tim Taufaasau cold-called.

All he asked for was a little mention for his girls.

Acton falls in between the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, not really affiliated with either one.

So media attention is of the rare kind.

Nonetheless, Taufaasau, who coached the Golden Valley girls junior varsity team during the 2008-2009 season, wanted to shine some light on his girls.

In the past, the Vasquez High girls basketball program might have preferred staying in the dark.

The team went 6-62 over the last five seasons.

Taufaasau remembers being on the Golden Valley coaching staff and watching the Grizzlies varsity defeat Vasquez 72-25 on Dec. 3, 2008.

“I think we won one game (my freshman year), and we were pretty happy about that,” said senior Jessica Bennett. “That’s pretty bad.”

Bennett said the team actually won five games last year.

But only two were legitimate.

The other three wins came by forfeit as the opponents didn’t show up.

It’s hard to blame the teams for not showing up, as Vasquez doesn’t have a home court.

Every one of its games is on the road.

In fact, Vasquez has to practice at High Desert Junior High — in its multi-purpose room.

“So every day when we start the practice we have to mop up the food,” Taufaasau said.

The cafeteria’s court, if you want to call it that, is shorter than the standard 84-by-50-foot high school basketball court.

The floor is not hardwood; it’s tile, which makes it impossible to cut on, Taufaasau explained.

“Oh my gosh - the court is really small. The floor sucks really bad. The lines, you can barely see the lines,” said senior McKenna Garrick.

Add those obstacles to the fact that the varsity has to share the space with the JV team.

Because of the limitations of the court, the number of girls on the court at the same time, and the talent level of the team, Taufaasau made an early decision for his girls.

They wouldn’t practice shooting.

They would condition — lots of running, including with leg weights — and only work on layups and defense.

Taufaasau, who previously was a volunteer coach at Alemany, Louisville and North Hollywood high schools, said at the beginning of the season the girls were making just 10 percent of their layups.

They had to rely on steals and hope the layups would start to fall more frequently.

And he trusted his girls.

“Tim’s a really good coach,” Bennett said. “Not saying our past coach wasn’t, but he’s really dedicated. Sometimes I think he wants it more than we do.”

Taufaasau, a 1982 graduate of Punahou School in Honolulu -  the same school that produced President Barack Obama - gave his girls two goals to shoot for in 2010: Win 10 games and make the playoffs.

“We didn’t have much faith in ourselves,” Garrick said. “I think it was because we didn’t have a gym. We didn’t think we’d go far.”

The season started with a win on Nov. 30.

The Mustangs drove up to California City, some 60 miles away, but the host school thought they were coming on Dec. 16.

California City forfeited the game due to the mix up.

Four straight losses followed as Vasquez scored a combined 52 points.

In the team’s next game on Dec. 10, it scored 49 points, defeating Immanuel Christian by one point.

After 14 games, the Mustangs stood at 6-9.

With the goal of winning 10 games seemingly out the window because the regular season was only 18 games, the other goal remained.

Some thought making the playoffs was a stretch. Even the coach thought so.

Yet Vasquez rattled off three straight wins — 49-8, 50-27 and a 55-49 victory over then 14-2 West Valley Christian, to wrap up the season.

The CIF-Southern Section released its girls basketball playoff matchups on Sunday.

Not affiliated with any league, Vasquez had to hope for an at-large bid.

“I was refreshing that Web site when they realesed the at-large teams. We thought we were the long shot,” Taufaasau said.

The thought was the Vasquez boys team had the better chance of being selected as an at-large team.

That information was released first.

Taufaasau scanned the list and saw no Vasquez on it.

He turned to his wife and said: “We’re not going to make it.”

His wife then turned to him and told him that she had a dream they would make it.

They made it.

“It’s going to sound corny, but I hugged my wife and hugged my kids,” Taufaasau said. “When you’re coaching, you’re away from your family a lot.”

Vasquez will travel to Los Angeles to play ninth-seeded Pilibos — a team that is 17-3 this season.

“I was shocked,” Garrick said about making the postseason, “because I didn’t think we’d go this far.”

The Vasquez Mustangs will be making their first-ever appearance in the CIF-Southern Section girls basketball postseason.

On Monday and Tuesday, they practiced on the tile-floored cafeteria that they’ve grown accustomed to.

They’re hoping they can get accustomed to something else — winning.

 

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