Senior Gabby Hockenberry-Grimes goes up for a rebound against Coral Academy last Tuesday.
When it was time for tryouts, not enough girls came out to field a team.
Dusty Casey, the Oasis Academy athletics director who also coaches the girls basketball team, noticed a disturbing effect on student participation because of the pandemic. It wasn’t just his basketball team. Low numbers are plaguing the Bighorns to the point where this current school year feels like Oasis Academy has gone back in time.
“We are seeing low participation across the board, much like other schools,” Casey said. “Students became disengaged and disconnected with their schools, and re-establishing that is our top priority. It feels like many of our programs are starting over, much like when we first opened the high school.”
The first week of the girls basketball season arrived but with no Bighorns team until Casey was able to get nine, most with little to no experience, to dress up.
Casey is leaning on a pair of seniors to guide this young team. JayLee McEwen, who hasn’t played sports since eighth grade, is back on the floor and running the offense as the point guard. Gabby Hockenberry-Grimes is back and provides experience in the paint. In last Tuesday’s Battle for the Ore Cart against Coral Academy, a 45-22 loss, McEwen led the team with six points and Hockenberry-Grimes added five.
This season will be more than just trying to win games.
JayLee McEwen, one of two seniors for Oasis Academy, pushes the ball up the floor against Coral Academy.
“Our goal for this year is to re-establish our program with our current high school students as well as future students,” said Casey, whose middle school girls teams won their league tournament this fall. “We want to instill a love for the game in our new players who've never played before, and send our seniors out with a fun-filled season.”
Along with the seniors, the rest of the team includes Taylynn Maynez, Tylie Norcutt, Maria Crespo Paz, Saray Hernandez, Sanai Barnes, Serenity Achurra and Kaylamel Carreras.
Norcutt scored six points against Coral Academy, Maynez added three and Carreras added two.
Casey said that despite the team’s 2-4 record, he’s pleased with the girls’ commitment and strength.
“Most of our team has either never played before, or have not played in years. The fact that these girls are out here, trying something new, and supporting our program and school takes courage and is by far our biggest strength,” Casey said. “Much of our focus revolves around fundamentals and game knowledge, along with a big focus on defense and rebounding.”