The Horizon High girls basketball team is winning – again.
This is a surprise, given that the Huskies had to reload the roster.
Three senior players – Madison Cabardo, Alyssa Alvarez and Jacey Carter – all in their fourth season on the varsity and co-captains since their sophomore year, refused to let a bad season happen. The Huskies stormed to a 10-1 start, including five wins at the Miner Webster Thanksgiving Jamboree in Gilbert.
Chris Young took over as Horizon’s coach before last season. He could tell how special the trio was in his first open-gym session.
“I’ve been coaching long enough that you can just see it. They were dominating and you could tell that they really like playing with each other,” Young said.
The three have taken turns leading the team in scoring, rebounds and assists for three years. Through 11 games this season, each averaged more than 10 points.
“We’ve learned how we play together, where the other two like the ball, what they’re going to do with it when it’s passed to them. We’re also kind of leaders on the court together so it’s not just one person who does all the leading,” Cabardo said.
Carter added, “I think since freshman year, even though we were new into the program, we still kind of felt like all three of us were going to have an important role. We knew we were going to be here playing together four years so our chemistry has just kept growing.”
The trio’s supporting cast was Horizon’s big question. Horizon lost eight players from its 2017-18 squad and was unsure of how its roster would look.
Early-season success was surprising to many, including those wearing Horizon jerseys.
“I don’t think we were expecting to play this well early,” Carter said. “So, we’re trying to change the minds of some people who thought we might not be as good.”
Horizon normally starts just one player taller than 6 feet, which can lead to a size-disadvantage across the front line.
However, the smaller Husky girls run the floor in transition past larger, slower defenders.
“If we are undersized, we’ll have mismatches with a guard on a slower big. And that’s just a good way to get a bucket,” said Cabardo, the team’s starting point guard.
With several skilled ball handlers and plenty of players capable of knocking down open jumpers, the Huskies can be a high-scoring team. Because of their height disadvantage, the girls can be dominated in the paint, though. The goal, then, is to trap the ball near mid court and cause turnovers, in turn keeping the ball out of the lane.
The seniors have been in the playoffs every year, twice reaching the 6A quarterfinals. Now down a conference to 5A, they hope that effort on the defensive end will spur an even longer playoff run. Horizon held opponents to 40 points or fewer in six games.
“These girls have always been talented, especially offensively, but now I feel like the entire group is buying in defensively. And you can see how well it’s worked so far,” Young said.
Cabardo, Alvarez and Carter made their mark on the Husky program. While they hope to end their careers with a 5A championship ring in February it is more important to them to influence younger teammates.
“We’ve definitely talked about it with the younger players. Even when we’re not here anymore they can step into our spots and still have success,” Cabardo said. “I hope we showed them how to win and maybe they’ll surprise some people, too.”