After earning a share of the Blossom Valley League Mount Hamilton Division championship and advancing to the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs last year, the Sobrato High girls basketball team is aiming to take things up another notch this season.
“We have a bunch of goals, and one of them is to go farther in CCS,” Bulldogs coach Erica Wallace said. “We’ve gotten to the third, round, the semifinals, so now we’re looking to make it to the championship game. Another goal is to win first place in league, which would be the third straight year we would have accomplished that.”
Sobrato entered the week at 3-1, with one more game before the start of league play against crosstown rival Live Oak High on Jan. 5. For the Bulldogs, everything starts with senior point guard Kianna Maldia, who recently signed a letter of intent to play at Sonoma State University and was last year’s Mount Hamilton Division Most Valuable Player. Maldia has been outstanding early in the season, a harbinger for what should be another productive season.
“Kianna looks amazing,” Wallace said. “She’s doing great leading the team and has a great attitude, two of the reasons why I built this program around her the last four years.”
Trezure Tu’ua, a sophomore forward/center, possesses a physicality that opponents have a hard time matching up with. Tu’ua has improved in all areas of the game since last year, giving the Bulldogs a legitimate threat down on the low block. Wallace said Tu’ua
“Her athleticism is out of this world,” Wallace said. “She can pull down three offensive rebounds in a row and is such a solid player. She’s growing into a real leader, her energy is up and she is able to dominate in the post, which is something we really need. I don’t know if she realizes yet that she can score inside any time she wants to because she’s so strong. She’s really stepped up in how she reads the court and being a verbal and physical leader on the court.”
Sobrato also returns senior center Jessica Byrum, who provides a true impact on the defensive end. Wallace produces a couple of blocks a game and alters several others. Byrum also has the capability to hit shots from the outside.
“She’s been working on her 3-pointer a lot, and she can hit it,” Wallace said. “Jessica has a great attitude, motivates her teammates and goes hard every single game and practice. She does a great job of getting a lot of blocks and really makes her presence felt on defense.”
Sobrato also has another strong post player in junior Kira Levandoski, who finished with 11 blocks—yes, 11—in a game earlier this season. Wallace said Levandoski has a nice drop step move in the post and should provide a strong presence defensively. Freshman shooting guard Jana Pineda has made an immediate impact with her keen court sense, ability to anticipate plays and scoring points.
“She’s a difference-maker,” Wallace said. “She has amazing shot selection, amazing range and her passing is on point. She’s definitely someone to look out for now and in the future.”
The team’s second leading scorer, junior guard Angeline Madriaga, averaged 12 points and four steals per game through the first three games of the season. Madriaga made the varsity squad as a freshman and has improved each year. Madriaga plays a pivotal role in Sobrato’s pressure defense, often harassing ball-handlers into mistakes.
“My confidence has definitely grown,” she said. “I’ve worked hard to be a better overall player and try to be one of the leaders on this team.”
Most high school rosters go through an overhaul every year, and Sobrato is no different. However, Madriaga feels the players have meshed well this season.
“Seeing the new connections that are developing is making me really happy,” she said.
Said Wallace: “Angeline’s work ethic is non-stop. She’s an amazing defender and has the ability to score in a lot of ways.”
Madriaga excels off the court as well. She has a cumulative 4.0 GPA and expects to have a 4.0-plus by the end of the school year because of the three Advanced Placement and one honors class she is taking this year. Madriaga is known for earning the lead role in “Real Life Moana,” a music video in which Madriaga re-enacts the animated scenes of “Moana” to life. Madriaga has also sung the National Anthem countless times for various events, including the Morgan Hill Freedom Fest for the last eight years.
When asked which of the eight versions of the song were her favorite, Madriaga replied, “Honestly, when I was younger because my vocal range was a lot higher.” Madriaga already has her future career scoped out as a pediatrician. Despite having a talent for acting and singing, Madriaga knows the entertainment business is a catch-and-miss deal.
“It’s really a hit or miss thing, but if the opportunity is there to be an actor or singer, I would definitely take it,” she said. “It’s just not my first choice. … I knew I always wanted to be in the medical field and realized a pediatrician would be a good choice for me.”
Madriaga loves when she takes the court, as the energy and vibe is similar to when she goes up on stage.
“Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it,” she said. “Basketball is a big mental game. You can’t do well unless you have the proper mindset.”