San Juan girls coach shares thoughts on early season

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
The Monticello High School girls basketball team hosted San Juan on Tuesday, December 5 in the first of two meetings between the local rivals this season.
It was all Lady Broncos in the first matchup. They scored 16 points in the first quarter and 12 in the second to lead 28-7 at halftime. Play evened out in the second half once San Juan began to go deeper into the bench. The Lady Buckaroos won the third quarter 13-12, and San Juan took the fourth 12-11, cruising to a 52-31 win.
Synessa Atcitty scored a game-high 19 points for the Lady Broncos with one three-pointer. Kaidence Mitchell scored seven in the win. Shaylin Nez scored six points on two treys.
Hayden Shumway and Tekowa Hernandez both poured in five points apiece, Macee Palmer got four, Ladainia Lopez hit a three-pointer, and Tzosilah Etsitty rounded out San Juan scoring with two points.
Jemma Robison led the way for Monticello with 13 points, Kenlee Atwood scored eight, Kahryme Alvarado added seven, Makenna Peterson got two, and Alyssa Sanchez scored a point.
The Lady Buckaroos had the remainder of the week off while the Lady Broncos traveled west to take on Panguitch and Bryce Valley Friday and Saturday, December 8 and 9.
It was a challenging trip against two very strong teams with San Juan falling in both contests. Against Panguitch it was never really in question as the Lady Bobcats shut out the Lady Broncos in the first quarter.
San Juan mustered eight points in the second frame, but Panguitch held a 25-8 lead at the break and cruised to a 53-18 win in the second half.
Nez and Atcitty led the scoring for San Juan with six points each. Atcitty hit two threes and Nez got one. Mitchell scored three points in the loss, Palmer had two, and C’ona Dandy scored one.
The Lady Broncos rallied to play a stronger game against Bryce Valley on Saturday. Both teams came out firing, scoring 35 combined first-quarter points. Sadly, 22 of them belonged to the Lady Mustangs.
San Juan struggled to put points on the board in the second quarter, losing the frame 14-2 Bryce Valley led 36-15 at the half, and put the game away in the second for a 54-39 final.
Nez led scoring for the Lady Broncos again with 12 points, all of which came from beyond the arc. Palmer scored eight, Mitchell poured in seven, Atcitty had five, Dandy hit one trey, and Hernandez and Khimya Fullwood added two apiece.
Following the past week’s action the San Juan girls are 2-5 on the season. Recently second-year Head Coach Kade Palmer shared his thoughts on the 2023-24 team and season:
SJR: I know your first year didn’t end the way you wanted and you lost some good players to graduation. How does the new team look as you’re just getting started?
Kade Palmer: Yeah, of course everyone wants to win a lot of games and ultimately be playing on the last day of the season, but I feel like we had a very successful year last year. We got a great start in developing the culture that we want and need in the San Juan girls basketball program. We had a lot of buy-in from the girls coming back this year. We did graduate some good senior talent last year but we have the talent to fill those spots. It’ll be fun to see who steps up and fills those shoes.
SJR: What is your coaching philosophy for this season?
KP: I feel that if the girls play their best and compete at their best every day in practice and in every game that is success. If you lose to a team that is better than you but you did your best, that’s all I can ask for. I can’t ask someone to do more than their best. I also believe you can beat a team that you’re better than but if you did it sloppily that’s a loss because you didn’t do your best. So all season long I will just be asking and trying to get the girls to just do their best.
SJR: Is it any different than how you approached it last season?
KP: Absolutely. Every team is so different. Last year coming into the season we kind of knew already who was going to be playing a lot and where points were going to come from. This year is a new team and we are still waiting for the girls to figure it out and settle into their roles. We’ve had some injuries, illness, and other things that have changed the dynamics in every game. The good thing is we still have several more preseason games to help us figure things out before we hit region play.
SJR: Are any players stepping into leadership roles yet? Do you have any who have surprised you in the early season?
KP: Yes we have had a few step up already and there are a few more who are right on the verge of figuring out how they can step up and be better leaders and influences on their teammates. And yes. My plan at the start of the year was that no freshmen were going to dress varsity for the first month at least, but we’ve had two who have shown they are fundamentally sound enough and have enough basketball IQ that they have been good contributors already.
SJR: In what areas do you think the team will be strong this season?
KP: I think we will be strong in the conditioning, rebounding, and free-throw shooting departments. We’ve been putting a bigger emphasis on those categories and have improved on them each game.
SJR: Where might you need some work?
KP: We need work on team chemistry still, but that will come with more practice time, game time, and figuring out roles.
SJR: Do you know much about the main opponents you’ll face this season?
KP: We faced two of the new region teams in the playoffs last year so we know North Summit is going to be the team to beat in our region. We know we can compete with Gunnison. They are rebuilding this season and they have a new coach, so that’s a game we expect to come away with. Duchesne is always tough but we feel we can compete with them too. North Sevier is well-coached and will always throw a good team out there. Grand is back in the 2A ranks and is in our region. They also have a new coach and graduated a lot of seniors last year. But they have some athletes who are hungry to prove they can play. We are excited for the new region we feel like we can compete and do really well here.
SJR: What are your expectations for the season?
KP: Like I said earlier the expectation is for everyone to do their best every single day. In sports as well as in life if you can figure out how to put out a maximum effort and do as close to your best as possible every single day in every single thing you do you are going to see success.
SJR: What are you hoping to accomplish this year?
KP: We are hoping to compete in every game we play. We’re hoping to keep building up the culture and expectations of success and effort here at San Juan. And we’re hoping to get younger girls excited about basketball so they will start working on it now.
The San Juan girls got back to action on Tuesday, December 12 with a trip to Cortez, CO to take on the Montezuma-Cortez Lady Panthers.
They’ll host Whitehorse on Thursday, December 14 then travel to Bluffdale to close out the pre-Christmas portion of the season against Summit Academy on Tuesday, December 19.

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