The senior trio of Mooney, Williams, Hamerstrom ignite Seton girls basketball

Anna Mooney hasn’t seen a dynamic quite like the one developing on this year’s Seton Catholic girls basketball team, and in particular, its group of seniors.

“It’s really unique,” Mooney said, “because I’ve never been on a three-leader team like this, where we’re all different leaders, but everything comes together so well.”

The three — Kyra Williams, Hannah Jo Hammerstrom and Mooney — first became teammates at Seton Catholic this year in high school, when Mooney entered the school after three years at Camas High.

The trio first played basketball together on the same Camas Select team in high school and have been friends for years. When they reunited this year, team chemistry quickly developed. The Cougars have a 13-1 record, are in first place in the 1A Trico League and have a chance to finish the season as the most successful team in program history to date.

“It definitely clicked right away,” Williams said. “Especially with the three of us, we played together, I’ve always known Anna and Hannah, we’ve always been pretty close friends. Even Anna comes in and just clicks with the team right away. … I just think this year there was no problem with us not getting along or not pressing. Everything went quite smoothly.”

Their chemistry has developed through the upperclassmen, which also includes Annie Marichallar, and has spread to a group of freshmen and sophomores who make up about half the roster.

In Williams, Hammerstrom and Mooney, the Cougars have three capable scoring threats who lead in their own way.

Seton Catholic head coach Joe Potter describes them this way.

According to Potter, Hammerstrom is one of the team’s three-point specialists and has impeccable shooting form. Unofficially, she is also the mother of the team.

“I don’t need a team mom because she takes care of everything,” Potter said. “Whether it’s on the court or off the court, she makes sure everyone is OK, that everyone gets what they need.”

Williams, who splits point guard duties with Mooney, is the team’s 5-foot-6 powerhouse, said Potter, a player with a competitive edge and a spirit that sets the tone for the Cougars.

Mooney, by her own admission, has taken a leadership role, although she has stepped back from Hammerstrom and Williams because they have been on the team longer. But from Potter’s perspective, Mooney, Seton Catholic’s leading scorer, lifted everyone on the team with her play.

All three have found the right balance because they know each other well.

“I feel like we read each other really well,” Hammerstrom said. “When there’s a one-man game, we notice that, so we try to pass (the ball) to the person who’s doing well that night. It’s just the chemistry between the three of us, we’re really good friends, and being able to read each other on the court has been a big part of that.”

Seton Catholic opened in 2009 and had its own girls basketball program until 2011. Their best season, 2016-17, saw the Cougars go 15-4 and reach the 1A district tournament.

They also had their share of difficult years. Potter, a former head coach at Battle Ground and Ridgefield, took over at Seton Catholic ahead of a shortened 2021 spring season. The Cougars went 1-9, prompting Potter to tear up “the whole thing” and start from scratch, putting more emphasis on fundamentals while incorporating more skill sets into drills.

“It’s never happened to me before, I know it’s never happened to Coach Potter before,” Williams said of the 1-9 season. “It definitely stuck with me and I think it always will.”

Hammerstrom, a four-year varsity player, and Williams, who transferred from Camas to Seton Catholic before her sophomore year, were part of last year’s team that improved to 8-14 and reached the district tournament for the second time in program history.

Then Mooney joined. After playing for two 4A state championship programs at Camas (girls soccer and basketball), Mooney was looking for a change of scenery — a community with a positive atmosphere in which she could thrive, she said.

Seton Catholic, a school of about 200 students, checked those boxes. Plus, she already knew some familiar faces like Hammerstrom, Williams and Phil Kent, the school’s athletic director and JV girls basketball coach.

“It all made sense, and honestly, it was the best decision I ever made,” Mooney said. “Because I’m so happy I did it. It just turned my life around. I’m in the happiest place I’ve ever been.”

After the three combined in the fall for the Seton Catholic girls soccer team to advance to the state tournament for the first time in seven years, the success has carried over to the basketball season.

Just last week, the Cougars beat Trica League rival La Centar for the first time in program history. They defeated rival King’s Way Christian on Friday to take sole possession of first place in the league standings.

A key part of the team is how well each player fits into their roles, which are openly discussed between coaches and players. While most of the scoring comes from the three seniors, there are several others who are tasked with focusing on the little things: rebounding, defense and offensive consistency. Each role plays a role in the team’s success.

“We talk about it a lot as a team,” Hammerstrom said. “Knowing the people who are the scorers and the energy keepers and all that. This is also very important.”

“It’s definitely important to us and our coach makes every role feel important,” Williams added. “That’s what made this season so fun and competitive. We all sculpt so well together.”

Potter said he has given this team more freedom and autonomy than any other group he has coached in the past. When the team is down or trailing in games, it’s not uncommon during scrimmages for Potter to ask Mooney, Williams or Hammerstrom for their opinion on how the team should proceed.

“It really helps to get them involved and take ownership of the program and they love it,” Potter said. “They know I’m going to make the final decision, but I’m going to listen to them in practice, I’m going to listen to them in a game that they’re comfortable with.”

As promising as the Cougars’ start to the season has been, they’ve made a concerted effort to stay humble, stay focused and not look too far ahead.

After each game, Potter asks the team a simple question: Can we get better?

The answer is always a resounding yes.

“It’s very step-by-step, especially because there’s a lot of young guys on this team,” Mooney said. “We don’t want to look too far ahead or get our hopes up. … We practice as much as we can every practice, and that’s what I think prepares us so well. Those games down the line, that’s what we’ve done right now that’s going to get us there.”

Source link