Se­nior leads El Cap­i­tan girls atop the CCC

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Sports - BY SHAWN JANSEN [email protected]­ced­

El Cap­i­tan High se­nior Alex Ser­ena tried to walk away from bas­ket­ball. After tear­ing her an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment for a sec­ond time, Ser­ena didn’t know if she could work her way back again.

What Ser­ena dis­cov­ered was her love for the game was too strong.

“I was ready to step away,” Ser­ena said. “But once I had that sec­ond surgery and I could walk again, I had to come back.”

The Gau­chos are happy to have her back. The vet­eran guard played a key role, hit­ting two big 3-point­ers to start the fourth quar­ter to help lead El Cap­i­tan (13-7 over­all, 4-0 Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia Con­fer­ence) to a 59-56 win over At­wa­ter in a CCC show­down be­tween the top two teams in the league on Thurs­day night at the Stable Cen­ter.

Ser­ena scored a sea­son-high 11 points.

“To take what our boys coach Adrian Hur­tado al­ways says, you win with your se­niors,” said El Cap­i­tan coach Tyler Roger­sTram­mell. “Alex Ser­ena stepped up. After two ACL surg­eries, she al­most gave up bas­ket­ball. Tonight I thought she was the best player on the court.”

The Gau­chos outscored the Fal­cons (13-6, 2-1 CCC) 24 to 3 from be­yond the 3-point line.

“We couldn’t shoot,” said At­wa­ter coach JR Davis. “We only made one three-pointer when we usu­ally make eight or nine.”

El Cap­i­tan had to over­come a ca­reer high 27 points from At­wa­ter sopho­more Amoni Clai­borne, who scored 14 points in the third quar­ter to help give At­wa­ter a 47-43 lead head­ing into the fourth quar­ter.

The Gau­chos re­sponded with a 13-0 run to star the fourth quar­ter, which was sparked by Ser­ena’s two 3-point­ers and a shot from long range by sopho­more Har­monie Farr.

Amaya Ervin added 18 points for El Cap­i­tan as she played through foul trou­ble. Farr fin­ished with 10 points.

“Other girls stepped up just like it’s been all year,” Roger­sTram­mell said. “Peo­ple think that it’s just Amaya, but that’s dis­re­spect­ful to the other girls.”

All the work Ser­ena put in to

get back on the court is worth it.

Dur­ing Ser­ena’s sopho­more sea­son, she tore her left ACL in her knee dur­ing a game against Tur­lock. After work­ing her way through months of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion after surgery, Ser­ena was ready to re­turn for her ju­nior sea­son.

How­ever, dur­ing a drill at prac­tice be­fore the start of the sea­son, she tore her right ACL.

“I felt the same pop,” Ser­ena said. “I knew I tore it.”

The grav­i­ta­tional pull to the sport was too strong for Ser­ena to quit. For one, she comes from a bas­ket­ball fam­ily. The Ser­e­nas are ba­si­cally the first fam­ily when it comes to bas­ket­ball at El Cap­i­tan.

Her older brother An­gel was the CCC Most Valu­able Player last year, lead­ing the Gau­chos to their first CCC cham­pi­onship. He’s now a fresh­man at UC Merced. Her younger brother Joe is a sopho­more on the var­sity team this year and her fa­ther Joe is an as­sis­tant coach for both the boys and girls teams.

“It was go­ing to be hard to stop play­ing bas­ket­ball,” Alex said. “Most peo­ple know we’re a bas­ket­ball fam­ily. My par­ents and friends were there for me. They told me the de­ci­sion was up to me.”

Play­ing bas­ket­ball comes with a price for Ser­ena. She has to spend over an hour after games ic­ing down both knees.

She says the two in­juries hav­ing her feel­ing much older when get­ting around school.

“I feel so old,” Ser­ena said. “Es­pe­cially go­ing up stairs at school. I hate stairs. I live in a two-story house, so I have to go up stairs at home. I know I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to have other surg­eries on my knees later, but I wouldn’t change it be­cause the feel­ing I have now is great.”

Alex Ser­ena

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