Expecting a whole lot more

Being named to the star-studded All-Mission League team wasn't something that realistically crossed Dana Budzyn's mind before the start of last season.

Budzyn arrived at the top of the hill at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy just looking for an opportunity at making the school's varsity basketball team. Cracking the starting lineup would have been good enough, though she had plenty of work that needed to get done for that to transpire.

In stepped Budzyn, a freshman, who suddenly became one of the top players in the league and perhaps provided a glimpse of what the Tologs' future might represent.

"Last year was a beginning block for me," said Budzyn, a point guard who earned all-league second-team accolades after averaging 5.1 points, 2.5 steals and 2.1 assists per game. "I was always out there learning and getting to know what high school basketball was like.

"There were a lot of times when it was exciting and scary, but I found out what it's like to compete. Being named to the all-league team meant so much to me. We weren't winning, but we were always fighting and the other coaches in our league noticed that."

Budzyn would like nothing better that to equal or even surpass the numbers she put up last season, which culminated with Sacred Heart advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A playoffs. Budzyn registered 57 assists, 88 rebounds and 67 steals.

In Budzyn's mind, those numbers can be eclipsed this season for a Sacred Heart squad that returns the bulk of its lineup. She's taken the initial steps to completing that task by spending an extra 30 minutes after practice running, going over drills and shooting about 50 shots.

It's all in the eye and mind for Budzyn, who recorded a team-best 10 points and added three steals in the Tologs' 63-48 road playoff loss against Notre Dame Academy in February.

"I really want to be able to go out there and be a leader," Budzyn said. "I want to keep a flow for the game and have that positive energy that my teammates can see.

"I've got good time management skills and I don't procrastinate. I see what I need to do out there and get it done."

Sacred Heart third-year Coach Gino Pacella, who has guided the Tologs to two postseason appearances in a row, said Budzyn's athletic ability sparked the Tologs.

Pacella played Budzyn close to 30 minutes a game, often giving her a brief break so she could regain her stamina by the time the closing moments of a contest took place.

"She's got the complete game and she's got the size to go out there and make a difference," said Pacella, whose team finished 9-18, 1-9 in league for fifth place before receiving an at-large playoff berth. "Dana has that natural ability to be a true point guard and she's only going to get stronger.

"She's the type of player who can score points and get steals while making it look pretty easy. I would like to see her push her intensity level up just a little bit more. I'm planning to keep her more fresh and not playing her 30 minutes a game. I think she can be one of the best player that the school has ever had."

Budzyn certainly didn't have it easy at all times last season, having to go up against league powerhouses like defending state champion Harvard-Westlake, Alemany and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. Budzyn felt that if she could hold her own in those matchups, then better things would lie ahead for her.

It proved to be a work in progress, one in which Budzyn was grateful for such strong competition.

"I think my second year will be a good one because of that," Budzyn said. "Our team began to mesh toward the end of last season and we want to carry that into this season. I think the second one will be a good one for our team and myself."

Sacred Heart senior forward Olivia Warner said Budzyn wasn't intimidated by being in new surroundings last season. That alone, Warner said, should make for a better transition for Budzyn's sophomore campaign.

"She's just got that natural talent and I expect more of the same things from her," Warner said. "We were all proud of what she was able to accomplish last year and we knew she had a great shot at getting named to the all-league team.

"I think she can make an even bigger impact."

Budzyn and the Tologs will compete in several tournaments in December, gearing them up for another round of league competition. It's a chance for Budzyn to gain additional experience and continue to polish her skills.

Sacred Heart will begin its season Tuesday when it competes in the South Pasadena High Tournament.

Perhaps a second straight season earning all-league honors looms.

"It was vey flattering to be named to the all-league team last season," Budzyn said. "That just makes me want to get on to the first team.

"I can do that if I continue to push myself. I want to put in the extra time and take the extra steps to be able to make that happen."

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