A handful of green-clad teenagers sprint through a series of conditioning drills inside the white-painted walls of Canyon del Oro’s gymnasium on an unseasonably warm November afternoon. The young women are preparing themselves for the three-month basketball season, doing what’s necessary to ready their bodies for the upcoming grind.
The athletes are the backbone of CDO’s girls basketball team, which is coming off back-to-back playoff appearances under sixth-year Coach Kent Senzee.
Senzee believes this year’s squad, which features University of Nevada-Las Vegas commit Tianna Carter and do-it-all guard Tessa Falcone, should be a contender in the 4A Kino region this winter.
The Dorados are coming off an 18-10 season that ended with a hard-knock, one-point loss to Thunderbird in the first round of the playoffs.
Carter, who averaged a team-high 18.9 points and 11.7 rebounds for the team as a junior, has high hopes for the squad this year. The 6 foot 1 inch forward believes Senzee’s defense-first approach to the game will help the team this season.
“I love this program,” she said. “The coaches are great. I really feel like I’ve found my place on this team and all the coaches here are super helpful.”
Senzee expects big things from Carter and her teammates this year, starting with the team’s opener against Desert View on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
“I expect [Tianna] to average 25 points and 15 rebounds this year, instead of 18 and 12,” he said. “She’s going to have to take a lot of point guard or ball-handling pressure off our younger kids, but I’m confident she can do just that.”
Carter embraces the challenge of playing multiple positions, saying she’s eager to show everyone that she’s more than just a tour de force in the paint.
“It’s going to be new this year playing primarily on the wing,” Carter said. “But it’s something I feel like I’m prepared for and I’ve worked hard for it.”
Falcone, who averaged 8.1 points and 1.4 assists per game as a junior, believes this year’s Dorados squad has the type of camaraderie that she hasn’t noticed with teams she’s played with in the past.
A big part of that strong bond comes from the surefire confidence and talent that seniors like Carter and Falcone share.
For Carter, taking the court with her teammates is a therapeutic release that’s unlike anything she’s experienced when she played soccer growing up.
“I just love the feeling when I’m on the court; it kind of takes all the stress away from me,” Carter said.
The key to success for Senzee starts on the defensive end of the court, relentlessly pressuring opponents for all 32 minutes of game time. He said a team that contends for a state title is a team that can handle pressure, and deal out some of its own.
Both Carter and Falcone believe the Dorados are capable of doing just that this season, putting forward the type of defensive acumen that drives opponents crazy.
Carter said this year’s Dorados squad is primed for success, with the type of teamwide talent and poise that Senzee has longed for since coming to CDO in 2012.
“Everyone has a place, everyone feels like they belong,” she said.