The Santa Clara Bruins girls basketball team plays host to the Monta Vista Matadors on Friday night in the league season finale. A victory would complete a perfect 24-0 season heading into CCS. While the Bruins finished last season with the best record in Head Coach Deedee Kiyota’s 18 years as coach, (21-5, 10-2), both Kiyota and assistant coach John Smith cautioned the team before this season not to expect a repeat performance. As it turns out they didn’t repeat that performance, instead, they one upped it.
Santa Clara is “led” by four-year varsity starters Devyn Snyder, Taylor Snyder and Katherine Knowles. “Led” in quotation marks because there is no superstar on this team. The three seniors demonstrate plenty of leadership, but they don’t dominate the scoring. All five starters own points-per game averages between 7.4 and 10.5. Any of the five can take the shot with the game on the line. While they haven’t had too many close games, coach Kiyota believes they are well prepared for when those situations arise.
“When we get into those specific [late game] situations, I think they are relaxed, they realize ‘hey we do this in practice, pretty much two or three times a week.’ They know what they have to do, anybody can take the last shot. I don’t think they get nervous, it’s just second nature to them.”
That second nature and team chemistry is a big reason for the Bruins’ success. Naturally two sets of twin sisters helps the cause, but the entire team seems to read each other’s minds.
“Devyn, Katie and I, we’re always together,” chuckled Taylor Snyder. “We have the same classes together, we hang out outside of school, we’re like triplets, everyone calls us triplets.”
“We are all so close,” added Devyn Snyder. “Our team last year is pretty much this team. We only lost two seniors and we had two really strong players come up from JV. It’s definitely a close team, I think that’s the best part.”
Identical twins Yvonne and Yvette Delgado are one year younger than fraternal twins Devyn and Taylor, but the juniors also shared similar sentiments about being a close-knit team.
“We’re all just so close together because we have been in this program for so long,” commented Yvonne Delgado. “Plus my JV year I already got to know Devyn, Taylor and Katie even though they were on varsity.”
“As a team bonding event we went to the place where you’re stuck in the room and have to to try and get out,” chimed Yvette Delgado. “We all went there and I think that’s my favorite memory so far [this season].”
Speaking of favorite memories, sophomore starter Kayleigh Watanabe yet again displayed wisdom beyond her years with her response.
“I think it’s weird, because my favorite memory is actually from our CCS loss to Mountain View,” recalled Watanabe. “That whole postseason, just remembering that every night when you go to bed, that three, two, one and that buzzer beater and you see it go in and you think like ‘we were this close to going another round in CCS’, [that memory] just makes me work a lot harder.”
It’s no wonder that the 15-year-old Watanabe will be a four-year varsity starter with that kind of eloquence.
“These girls are all extremely smart” commented coach Smith. “That’s probably one of the things making them so successful is that these girls are able to use their brains.”
Outsmarting their opponents has certainly been a big help for Santa Clara as they don’t have a prototypical “big” player. All 10 of the girls on the roster are 5’9” or under. The girls rely on speed, quickness, hard work and smarts to win games. Their toughest game was a thrilling one-point victory over Cupertino on Jan. 11.
“At the end [of that first Cupertino game], Devyn missed her two free throws and then [Cupertino] got the ball off the turnover. Right when I saw them get the ball, I just started sprinting back like ‘oh my god, they cannot score this’ and then they missed and then I got the rebound,” recalled Knowles, who leads the team with 6.8 rebounds-per game. “I turned around and the buzzer went off and I was like ‘what happened, a foul?’ It was zero-zero on the clock and then I got really happy, just carried the ball with me while we celebrated.”
“For them to get that crucial rebound [against Cupertino] which is what cost us last year [in CCS], we let them know that that showed growth,” noted coach Smith. “They knuckled down, remembered the pain of losing and they were like ‘I’m not letting it happen again.’”