San Juan girls get first two wins, new coach Kade Palmer discusses season expectations

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
The San Juan High School girls basketball team got their first two wins of the season and improved to 2-2 on the year this past week with games against local rivals.
On Tuesday, December 6 the Broncos topped Whitehorse 57-49 at home, then traveled to Monticello on Thursday, December 8, beating the Buckaroos 69-31.
Against the Raiders San Juan fell behind 11-6 in the first quarter but battled back in the second to outscore the visitors 18-6 and lead 24-17 at the half.
Whitehorse rallied to pull to within four after three quarters, but the Broncos used a strong fourth to close out the win. San Juan led from start to finish against Monticello in their dominant second win of the season.
After the first four games the Broncos have three players averaging double-digits in points per game. Serina Yanito leads the way with 56 points and an average of 14.0.
Synessa Atcitty has 44 and an average of 11.0. Freshman Averie Gilson, who only played against Monument Valley on November 29, led San Juan scoring in that game with 11 points.
Rounding out top-five scoring for the Broncos at this early stage of the season is Kaeah Howard with 33 points, an average of 8.3 per game and Shaylin Nez with 21 points in three games for an average of 7.0.
San Juan will close out the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule with three games over the course of the next few days, at Monument Valley on December 13 (too late for the press deadline), at Bayfield, CO this Saturday, December 17, and at home against Grand County next Tuesday, December 20.
First-year head coach of the Broncos Kade Palmer kindly answered several questions I sent recently regarding his first experience as a head basketball coach, the team, and some expectations. Here are his responses:
SJ Record: Tell me about the experience becoming the head coach of the San Juan girls basketball team.
Kade Palmer: I helped with the team two years ago as a volunteer. Last year I was the C-Team coach and enjoyed working with the girls. After last season the head coaching position came open and I was lucky enough to be offered the job!
SJR: What is your basketball coaching history?
KP: I started coaching basketball in December of 2018 at Albert R. Lyman middle school as the seventh and eighth grade boys head coach. Due to work I had to take the next year off, but the damage was already done. I had such a fun time coaching I knew it was something that I wanted to do. When I was asked to help out with the high school girls team I jumped at the opportunity. After two years helping I was given the opportunity to take the reins and run the program.
SJR: What is your coaching philosophy?
KP: I am big on teamwork. No one is above the team. If a group will come together, love each other, and work hard it’s going to be very hard to beat them. I am also very big on effort. There are a lot of things you can’t control in basketball just like in life, but you can always control your effort and how hard you try. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
SJR: Tell me about your assistant coaches.
KP: I am blessed to have the coaching staff I have. Jason Shumway is our JV coach and has been around basketball for a long time. He played on one of the three San Juan state championship teams. This will be his fourth year helping out on the girls coaching staff.
Kesian Barton is our C-Team coach. We grew up together and played basketball together up through high school. We are lucky he moved back to Blanding a little over a year ago and was very excited to help out when I reached out to him.
Riley Pugh is one of our volunteers. We sure appreciate him coming and helping when work allows him to. He is a very positive and energetic teacher and connects well with the players on the team.
Samantha Pemberton is our other volunteer. She was a great player for the Broncos when she was in high school and is a fantastic coach. She connects well with girls and helps coach all year round as a volunteer with volleyball and basketball in addition to being the head girls track coach.
SJR: It’s obviously still very early, but tell me about your team this season.
KP: We have a very fun and talented group of athletes this year. Just over a month into the season the girls are really figuring things out. We started a little slow but they’ve really come together as a group. We are seeing a lot of improvement and the girls are having fun competing together. We are just going to keep improving and preparing to make a lot of noise in region play this year and in the postseason.
SJR: What are your initial thoughts and feelings on the team and the season?
KP: I am very excited and hopeful for this team. We have all the talent and skill we need to win a lot of games and the girls are starting to see that too and they are gaining the confidence they will need to perform well this season.
SJR: Talk about the players who are returning this season.
KP: We have a good group of returning players this year: Seniors Serina Yanito; Kaeah Howard; Adri Johnson; and Khadija Lee, juniors Synessa Atcitty and Shaylin Nez, and sophomores Paige Bitsoie and Hayden Shumway all saw their fair share of varsity time last season and it has shown already.
They have looked a lot more comfortable in games this year which has allowed them to clean their games up and start off performing better than they ever have!
SJR: What new girls are stepping up?
KP: We have had a lot of girls step up and fill the roles that we need. Senior Brittney Lansing, sophomore Macee Palmer, and freshmen Averie Gilson and Kaidence Mitchell have all stepped up and given great minutes. It’s nice as a coach to be able to go 10-12 players deep and not lose skill or intensity.
SJR: What do you think your strength(s) will be this season?
KP: I think our biggest strength this year is all the younger girls who are stepping up. It makes practice more intense. We are getting tough quality looks in practice because we are playing against these girls. It also makes the starters show up and work hard every day because they know if they don’t they may lose their starting spots.
It’s been fun to see how competitive we have been playing in practice. It has definitely shown in the last two games. The other strength is that our girls are coming together as a team. On the court you can see how much fun they are having and that they are gelling.
SJR: What aspects do you think you’ll have to work on the most?
KP: We have to clean up the turnovers, take care of the ball, and box out. We have seen a huge improvement in the first month on these aspects of the game and we’ll be working to continue getting better each day.
SJR: What are your expectations for the season?
KP: I expect us to come out and compete like crazy every single game no matter what. I expect us to continue improving and I expect us to be playing at Salt Lake Community College at the end of February.
SJR: What would you like to accomplish as a team?
KP: After tryouts we got together as a team and set some goals for ourselves. The team wants to be in the top ten in the RPI standings and earn a spot in the state tournament. So we will keep working on the small goals and looking for small improvements each day so we can achieve our goals.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday