It’s not as though Courtnee McMasters struggled last year – unless, of course, you define struggling by averaging 10 points per game.
But when California girls basketball coach Chris Minerd would watch McMasters settle for 3-pointers instead of driving to the basket, he knew there was a missing element from the senior guard’s game: another gear.
Perhaps McMasters finally found what Minerd was looking for.
McMasters had traded 3-pointers for driving layups this season and has found quite a bit of success. Enough to average 18.9 points per game and lead California to an 8-1 start, the Trojans’ best since winning the last section title in program history – in 1982.
“You make the defender question what you’re doing all the time,” McMasters said of driving versus spotting up for 3-pointers. “They can’t really play up on you because you can just go right past them.”
Minerd believes McMasters felt pressure to chuck it from long range because of how frequently that happens on the AAU circuit. But he also said she can be a bit streaky from beyond the arc, which is why he urged McMasters to change the way she does things.
“With this being her senior season, I think she finally realized that this is it; she has to make an impact,” Minerd said. “She’s worked hard in the offseason to get herself in better game shape, and it has definitely paid off for her.”
And the rest of the team, too.
McMasters had a triple-double during California’s 60-51 win over South Allegheny Friday night, with 16 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds. For the season, she’s averaging 8.9 rebounds, 5.9 steals and 3.9 assists per game.
Combine that with the 21.4 points and 13.1 rebounds that Natalie Baron and Tristen Conaway are contributing, and it’s not crazy to think the Section 3-A race will come down to California and Carmichaels, who meet for the first time Jan. 7.
“The girls really want to win a section title – California hasn’t done it in 30 years – and they want to leave their mark,” Minerd said. “I told them that’s the best way to do it.”
When it appeared as though South Fayette senior Zach Challingsworth would not play basketball this winter, point guard Evan Bonnaure, as one of the Lions’ few experienced players, knew he’d have to step up.
And so he did.
Right into a conversation for the area’s Player of the Year.
After averaging 10.4 points per game last season, Bonnaure has nearly doubled that number to 20.0 per contest, along with six rebounds, three assists and three steals per game.
Bonnaure’s sudden transformation, from reliable to remarkable, has enabled the Lions to jump out to a 5-2 start, including a 2-0 mark in Section 5-AAA.
“When Zach was out, I knew I was the only guy back with any experience from last year,” Bonnaure said. “I really felt like I had to put it on myself until everybody else got some experience.”
Challingsworth has since returned, the sports hernia he feared turning out to be much ado about nothing.
And when he gets his basketball legs back, the Bonnaure-Challingsworth tandem, along with C.J. Rudisill (15 ppg), should keep South Fayette in the mix for the section title.
Oh, and the leadership thing, any impending controversy over whose team this will be?
Not to worry, Bonnaure said.
“I don’t envision any kind of issue with that,” Bonnaure said. “Zach’s a great teammate. I love playing with him; we’ve played together since third grade, when we played up on the fourth-grade team. We have experience together, and we mesh well. We do well balancing the leadership aspect. I don’t think there’s going to be any type of issue.”