At first, Kristen McDonald wasn't sure what hit her. All she knew is that whatever it was--sickness? depression? bad karma?--seemed to knock her on-court confidence to an all-time low.
Now that she looks back, however, McDonald, a junior center at Valencia High School, sees that the three-week slump last December resulted from a fright suffered at the Brea-Olinda tournament.
In simple terms, McDonald and her Tiger teammates received a 91-29 beating by Brea-Olinda--the county's top-ranked team--in the tournament final Dec. 12.
For McDonald, the lopsided loss was especially debilitating.
"During the game, I felt like I was just out there," McDonald said. "I couldn't do anything to help my team.
"After that, every game I played, it was like I was scared. I'd go out on the court thinking, 'What am I going to do wrong today?' I was always afraid of making huge mistakes."
After watching McDonald struggle through four straight games--including one in which she didn't score a point--Coach Debi Woelke called for a conference with McDonald and her parents.
"It was a three-hour, in-depth, Saturday afternoon chat," Woelke said. "But we really needed her back. I know she can be one of the best post players in the county. She needed to know that, eventually, it will happen."
The wait apparently ended last week.
McDonald, The Times' player of the week, scored a career-high 29 points and had 12 rebounds Tuesday in a 59-42 victory over Orange League rival Magnolia.
Thursday, McDonald scored 10 points in a 73-24 victory over Anaheim. Sensing the rout, McDonald asked to be taken out of the game after the first quarter.
McDonald, averaging 13.3 points and 8 rebounds, credits Woelke's pep talk for her improvement.
Her confidence has heightened just in time for what may be Valencia's biggest challenge of the season. The Tigers (13-4, 4-0) play Brea-Olinda (17-1, 4-0) in an Orange League game at Valencia tonight at 7.
"I know, to beat them, everyone has to believe that we can," McDonald said. "And I believe we can. I know they're beatable."
Valencia High School
Height, Class: 5-10, Junior.
Last Week: Scored a career-high 29 points and had 12 rebounds in a 59-42 victory Tuesday over Magnolia. Scored 10 points in a 73-24 victory over Anaheim Thursday.
Season: Averaging 13.3 points and 8 rebounds a game for Valencia (13-4, 4-0).