Auburn Smith remembers the first days of Desert Oasis High in 2008.
“It was frustrating,” Smith said. “It was hard to trust other people. You didn’t know anyone.”
It carried over to the basketball court, too, where the Diamondbacks girls lost 11 of their first 12 games, many of them by wide margins, and finished 4-20.
That was just three seasons ago, but it seems like light years away.
Since then, the progress made by the Diamondbacks has been astounding. And it’s only getting better.
Desert Oasis returns 10 letter winners, including four starters, and has a handful of transfers with varsity experience as the team looks to build on last season’s 17-8 campaign.
“This isn’t the same team we had three years ago,” said Smith, a senior guard. “It’s stronger, better.”
Much better. The Diamondbacks finished 12-4 in the Southwest League last season and made their first postseason appearance, falling to Palo Verde in a Sunset Region quarterfinal.
It was done with a core group that took lumps together early but learned on the job and is seeing the benefits come its way.
“We have a lot of chemistry because we’ve been together for a while now,” junior guard Sammi Tso said. “Our whole group is just dedicated. We want so badly to do well. We work really hard.”
Smith, Tso and junior Tatiana Kearn return as starting guards, and each is capable of scoring big on any night. Also back is starting post Lenzi Cram, a senior.
“The good thing is that we don’t have to rely on one person,” said fourth-year coach Laurie Evans, who saw her team’s win total rise from four in 2008-09 to 12 in the ’09-10 season to 17 last season. “We have four or five scorers at any given time.”
The Diamondbacks also picked up twin junior guards Jacqueline and Michelle Garcia, who played last season at Clark.
Much like last season, the Diamondbacks plan to go with a four-guard offense that can give opponents fits on defense because the shots can come from anywhere on the floor.
The addition of Courtney Scheller, a transfer from Fernley High in Northern Nevada, also should strengthen the team’s post game.
“There’s no doubt we can score,” Evans said. “Our question will be if we can stop a good player. With the hard work we have put in, I think that will be our strong point.”
For the most part, defense was a strength for the Diamondbacks last season, when they held opponents to fewer than 40 points in 14 games.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” Tso said. “It’s our main focus. We just have to keep working harder. We’re working 110 percent; we need to work 115 percent. We need to improve some areas we struggled in last year.”
The trouble spot came when the team tried to close out games against better competition, something Desert Oasis didn’t have a chance to do often in its first two seasons.
The Diamondbacks will get another crack at that this season and likely have another shot at the postseason, too.
“Our goal is to go into every single game like we’re going to win it,” Evans said. “With this team, with the determination, there’s no reason we can’t finish on top.”