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Canyon del Oro senior Vivianna Castillo

The Canyon del Oro girls basketball program crashed to Earth in 2019 after a long stretch of success under coach Kent Senzee. The Dorados posted winning records in five of Senzee’s first six seasons in Oro Valley, before falling to 10-16 a year ago, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015. 

Senzee’s lack of success a year ago forced his staff to go back to the drawing board, with a cast of young and inexperienced players on his roster this year. 

The longtime coach decided the solution to what ailed them a year ago was to push the tempo in contests, opting for speed over their typical slow-paced, grinding style in years past. 

Senzee is realistic that this year’s team will take its lumps early after losing three starters from last year’s team, including center Tianna Carter, who scored 23.4 points per game in 2018-19. 

“It’s a rebuilding year—we lost three seniors, we’ve got two returning starters, and after that we’re pretty young,” Senzee said. “So I’m anxious to see what they’re going to do.”

With so much roster turnover, Senzee and his staff is turning to players like senior Vivianna Castillo, who is was the Dorados’ third-leading scorer last year, to guide the youthful roster forward this year. 

Castillo understands that the team’s early season schedule will be a gauntlet, given their new style and youthful roster. 

The senior is ready to lead the team’s younger players, however, as the team has fully embraced the faster-paced offense in preseason practice. 

“I just expect it to be more of a learning process,” Castillo said. “There’s a lot of new things, even for me, just going into this and seeing what we can do as a team, because a lot of us are new to each other and we’re still getting used to each other and playing with each other.”

Senzee’s explanation for embracing a fast-paced, run-and-gun offense is twofold: with the Dorados lacking the experience and teamwide talent to go in man coverage with opponents, while also featuring a more athletic roster than in years past. 

“Last year, we had some good go-to guys, so we could take our time and be patient getting it to those players,” Senzee said. “But this year, it’s going to be a lot of fastbreak, whoever gets that first shot, we’re going for it. We’re not going to try to get it to our scorers, we’re just going to go.”

Players have embraced the team’s new, fast-paced approach, as it’ll allow them to get better scoring opportunities, while challenging players to be more precise with their passes in game action. 

Senzee believes this year’s Dorados team will regain its position as a playoff contender, while also featuring a style of basketball that’s more entertaining for fans and players alike. 

He wants his players to embrace the challenges that arise along the way, with more possessions resulting in more turnovers, but also more scoring opportunities. 

He’s confident that players like Castillo will ultimately thrive in the up-tempo system, which will be a more entertaining style to watch. 

Senzee hopes more basketball fans will attend the team’s games this year, as they’ll keep those in attendance entertained, with a whirlwind pace that’s sure to result in high-scoring, action-packed contests. 

“If they want to watch an exciting brand of basketball, we’re going to play fast,” Senzee said. “We’re going to turn it over a lot, but we’re going to be in the other team’s face and it’s going to be a track meet. That’s the way I see it.”

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