It wasn’t too late, but it was getting late for Westwood post player Erin Cook to make her mark.
The 6-foot-2 senior averaged 12 to 15 minutes a game last season as a reserve for the Warriors’ basketball team. In order for her minutes to rise her final season she needed to be more assertive. That has taken place. Her improvement as a scorer and rebounder has been a huge reason why the Warriors are a respectable 8-10 with 5A East Valley Region play now in full swing.
‘‘Erin played on the junior varsity as a sophomore and she got some time last year,’’ Westwood coach Sally Christensen said. ‘‘But she was so timid. She set out to step up her game in the offseason. She went to four or five camps. She’s still a little timid, but her shot has really come around. She had a good shot before. Now she’s taking it more.’’ Cook leads Westwood in scoring for the first time in her career. She is averaging 13.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Exposure to competition in the camps made Cook realize her size allowed her to do more. ‘‘I’ve found my confidence is up and that’s been the biggest thing,’’ Cook said of her offseason work. “My role was to rebound and block shots before so it’s different to be relied on to score.’’
Ivy Leaguer: For J.P. Grako, college is going to be the best of both worlds. The Valley Christian senior linebacker was recently accepted to Harvard
University, where he will also be a member of the Crimson football team.
Grako, the 2A Metro Region defensive player of the year for the state champion Trojans, took a visit to Cambridge, Mass., in December, where he was offered a spot on the football team. He then went through the application process and got word back last week that he was accepted.
“This is real exciting and it’s just good to be over with and know where I’m going to school,” the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Grako said.
Grako said he got to meet the Crimson team during his visit and the players downplayed the fear some might have about the tough academic standards.
“They told me that it’s going to be hard, especially during the season,” Grako said, “but it’s just like every other school and you just have to get your work done and stay on top of things.”
Grako had also gotten attention from other Ivy League schools Penn and Brown, as well as the University of San Diego.
Ankle problems: St. Mary’s point guard Dymond Simon reinjured her left ankle in Tuesday’s game against Desert Mountain and is out indefinitely. Simon, who will play at Arizona State next season, will have an MRI on the ankle Saturday and is questionable for the MLK Classic on Monday at Wells Fargo Arena.
Double threats: Three East Valley small schools have yet to lose a region basketball game. That’s boys and girls combined.
The hoops teams at Valley Christian have both started 2A Metro Region play unbeaten, as have the Seton Catholic boys and girls teams. One surprise, however, is Maricopa in the 2A West. The Rams’ girls and boys each sit 3-0 in the region heading into a weekend where they face league cellar-dwellers Tonopah Valley on Friday and Sells Baboquivari Saturday.
Goalkeeper by committee: With injured starting goalkeeper Ariana Byrd out for at least another month, Xavier coach Barbara Chura has been forced to get creative with her lineup. It’s worked so far. Chura placed freshman midfielder Molly Quigley in goal Tuesday against Paradise Valley, with Quigley responding by posting a shutout in a 1-0 Gator win. Junior forward Christina Dugan started in goal the next night against Horizon, a 2-1 shootout win by the Gators. Dugan was replaced for the shootout by sophomore midfielder Chelsea Canepa, who allowed just one goal on four Husky attempts. Thursday against St. Mary’s, Chura started junior midfielder/defender Jenny Tanaka in goal.