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LEONARD ORTIZ , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Behind team leaders Maddy Bloom, left, Elise Parsaee and Peyton Romo, the Dana Hills High girls basketball squad has already surpassed its win total from the 2014 season. The Dolphins battle Trabuco Hills tonight.

Dana Hills girls basketball playing with purpose

STAFF WRITER

One team. One purpose.

The growth plan of Dana Hills’ girls basketball program has sped up exponentially since the creation of that four-word team motto.

Add the return of one of the program’s higher-profile scorers and an emphasis on mental toughness and team chemistry and the Dolphins have a recipe to compete for their first Sea View League crown since 2013.

“Every Friday, we have Binder Friday,” second-year coach Anne Honey said. “We filled it with a bunch of important things we wanted them to focus on, from plays, to strengthening the mind, to nutrition. Communication, consistency and focus – we just kept coming back to those same points.”

Add fun. Honey, in her second season as Dana Hills’ coach, referred to her program like having 10 kids on multiple occasions at Monday’s team practice.

In essence, the girls are sisters on the court. An emphasis on mental toughness and team chemistry through the offseason and preseason has led to a more fluid style of play on both sides of the ball.

Neither coach nor players are surprised by the team’s 11-4 start. The Dolphins have already surpassed last season’s win total (9-17).

“Their basketball IQ, game-time decisions and experience ratio – everything has matured,” Honey said. “I’m really pleased with the mental toughness that they’ve developed and a lot of that has to do with Maddy (Bloom) coming back and being a senior leader. She’s set the tone with the girls and they’ve followed suit with it.”

Last year’s group possessed seven freshmen and sophomores among an 11-person roster and was led in scoring by freshman Peyton Romo.

“She’s definitely helped us out a ton,” fellow team captain Elise Parsaee said of Romo. “She’s really great at being on the floor and showing her confidence and that rubs off on other players.”

The Dolphins got a boost this year when Bloom contacted Honey following last season to express her desire to return to the program.

Bloom led the Dolphins in scoring two years ago, scoring 11.7 points per game for a squad that finished 5-21. She decided to take a year off last season.

Now, Bloom is the leader the Dolphins need. Her transition back to the program was seamless.

“I really missed it and basketball has always been close to me,” Bloom said. “It’s my senior year, so I figured why not come back and give it a try.”

Said Parsaee: “It’s a huge help having her back, we played great together two years ago. Having her back and taking that senior lead for us, I’m really glad she’s here.”

Bloom, again, leads the team in scoring with 20.9 points per game. Romo has provided ample support with 13.7 points per game. Parsaee, though not a scoring leader, is a critical part of the Dolphins’ success.

After completing her first season as varsity head coach last spring, Honey developed a long list of potential improvements for the program.

She took a trip up to her hometown in the Bay Area and went on a hike with an old classmate and club coach, Kevin McClure.

“How are we going to take this to the next level?” she asked.

His response became the team motto: “One team. One purpose.”

It holds extra meaning to Honey as it was formulated after McClure was diagnosed with cancer in January 2015. He died in October.

“It has that extra level of meaning and the girls know that,” Honey said. “It’s like a full circle team motto.”

In order to uphold the meaning of the motto, Honey has put emphasis on developing mental toughness by dedicating Friday practices to studying in a classroom and having team discussions. They’ve been deemed Binder Fridays.

The program has used those meetings to pick team captains, a process that Honey said took nearly four weeks to complete to make sure the team and coaches mad the right decision.

“We defined what we wanted in a captain,” Honey said. “We didn’t have a captain last year because we were so young, we had rotating captains. Going through that process led to the right ones and it’s working.”

During those discussions, Honey will have the team think critically by asking individuals questions about terms and having them write paragraphs about film sessions.

“What makes an exceptional player exceptional?” That question – along with Bloom’s response – hangs on her wall at home.

“It’s all about great players and what key roles they have on the team,” Bloom said. “It really defines us as a whole.”

Those questions – and subsequent answers – motivate each individual to do more for the team. It’s paid dividends through the team’s first 15 games, including a 48-24 win over Mission Viejo in the Dolphins’ Sea View League opener last week.

Honey lauded the girls for their ability to refocus after the pregame festivities. The league opener was Dana Hills’ first home game of the season and the school showed its support by packing the stands.

Thursday, the Dolphins will face their biggest test in Trabuco Hills. But with a team that has gone through growing pains and is sharp in mind and execution, Dana Hills feels more confident.

“We work hard at getting better every day and it doesn’t surprise me when we look back after all the hard work they’ve put in,” Honey said of the team’s start.

“It’s business as usual and this is our job,” she told the team after last Thursday’s pregame festivities. “Things got put right back into perspective and that focus was right back there.”

Contact the writer: npercy@ocregister.com


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