Late in December, while at a girls’ basketball tournament in Alaska, the coaches at Fullerton Troy finally said to each other, “Who are we kidding?”
So Kevin Kiernan and his assistants made freshman Sara Yee the starting point guard.
A few months and an Alaskan championship later, Yee has quietly and unselfishly helped Troy win its second Southern Section title and reach the Division II semifinals of the Southern California regionals.
Kiernan is such a believer in his 5-foot wonder that he said after Yee’s 10-point, 10-assist effort in an 82-45 victory over Perris on Saturday, “She can be president of the United States someday.... She’s going to go places.”
She might eventually become an engineer or a teacher, she said, but the only place she’s going tonight is Troy High, where the Division II-AA champion Warriors face Redondo.
Had Redondo not blown its 14-point lead in the final 10 minutes of the Division II-A championship game with Santa Ana Mater Dei, the Sea Hawks would have been seeded No. 1 in the regionals, Troy No. 2.
“Not taking anything away from Mater Dei, because they beat us,” Redondo Coach Marcelo Enriquez said, “but this game probably should be [the championship game] on Saturday.”
One thing is certain. Redondo’s stunning loss has focused the Sea Hawks. Allison Bretana, their point guard and senior leader who blamed herself for the loss against Mater Dei because of 10 turnovers, will have something to prove.
“All we have as seniors is this game,” Bretana said. “This [is] the most focused anyone has been on one task.”
That’s fine by Yee, who starts alongside two sophomores, a junior and a senior.
“It makes it that much tougher to beat them, and makes me that much more determined to shut them down,” said Yee, who broke into the starting lineup because she is her team’s best defensive player. “I think it will be a great game.”
It should. Troy is 28-2, Redondo, which had won 17 in a row before Mater Dei’s amazing comeback, is 26-5.
Yee, who averaged three points and 5.9 assists this season, had 22 assists in the last two games, including 12 in a 92-40 victory over Central Section runner-up Sanger on Tuesday.
“It’s a great lesson for the other players to see,” Kiernan said. “We have people who can score, we need someone who doesn’t care about scoring but who will set the table for those people.
“Without that, we wouldn’t have the chemistry we do. That’s what we work on all year, being unselfish and getting the ball to the right people at the right time.”
That allows senior Amanda Livingston (averaging 17.5 points), junior Meghan McGuire (14 points) and sophomore Nicole Hayman (11.1 points) to maximize their abilities.
“We all prefer offense to defense,” said the 6-foot-1 Livingston, who has been impressed with Yee’s maturity even though “she still stresses out a lot and needs encouragement.”
Yee, who has a 4.3 grade-point average, has learned a few things from the UCLA-bound Livingston.
“Amanda helps me forget about my mistakes, and how to be more assertive and get my voice heard, both on and off the court,” Yee said.
The result has been great for Troy.
“I try to be fair to freshmen and not give them too much too soon,” Kiernan said, “but how many teams go this far with a freshmen point guard? It doesn’t happen very often unless your name is Gatewood.”
That’s Sade Wiley-Gatewood, who led Lynwood to consecutive state titles. Troy, though, is going for its first.
“All of it hasn’t really hit me yet,” Yee said. “Your freshman year, you don’t really expect it. I’m living in the moment, enjoying it while it lasts.”