“We are the underdogs because we are the smallest middle school in the school district,” says Vicki Martin, coach and department head of P.E. for the middle school at Don Callejon School. “In sports, we have the least number of kids to pick from. Until recently, we’ve never won a championship.”
On March 24, the Don Callejon Girls Basketball “A” Team defeated Peterson Middle School 45-42 and won the championship among local middle schools. At a gathering afterschool on March 27, the players admired their prize trophy and expressed gratitude to their coach, Bryan Venturini. On their trophy are Venturini’s name and names of the players: Alyssa Arana, Jadah Bottley, Celeste Chavoya, Janaiya Davis, Aliyah Fountain, Lea Kreisa, Jackie Venturini, and Kayleigh Watanabe.
“I’m happy for the team, happy for the coaches, and I’m really proud of the girls for their excellent sportsmanship and attitude of respect for everyone,” says Mary Martinez, principal of Don Callejon School. “We really appreciate the Peterson team for their sportsman-like conduct too.”
“Kayleigh made the winning shot and this year, Kayleigh was the league’s best point guard as she led our team in scoring,” says Bryan Venturini, boys and girls basketball coach and head custodian. “Janaiya was the most improved this year; she really helped with the defense. And Jackie made five pivotal shots in the championship game. During the game, the audience was cheering loud. More cheers came when we won.”
“At half time, we were down by ten, but none of us lost faith, so we kept adding on to the score, and I knew I had to start shooting more,” says Watanabe, point guard. “[On shooting the winning shot], I felt that even if I missed, my team and I would’ve still pulled it off. Without our coaches by our side, we wouldn’t have gotten this far.”
“[On my pivotal shots], Kayleigh was at the other half of the court and I was the only person open, so Kayleigh would pass me the ball and I would shoot it before anyone could get in my face,” says Jackie, who plays both forward positions. “Our team really progressed since the beginning of the season. We couldn’t have won the championship without each person on our team and our coaches.”
“Originally, I did not want to play basketball, but my dad told me I should do it because he played high school basketball,” says Davis, power forward. “When I first started playing, I listened to Bryan coach us and I believed in myself more. Then I got the hang of it. Now I can say playing basketball is my hobby.”