Motivation and drive seem to be the two greatest contributions junior Kishan Cooper and sophomore Joy Manuel made to the Salt River High School Lady Eagles basketball team this season.
Cooper transferred over from Dobson High School this season and admits she made the move for her parents. But she said being from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and previously watching games, she knew the talent that existed on the basketball team and knew they had a chance to go to state.
“It was a transition because this school is a lot smaller, but most of all I really enjoy basketball and have a lot of fun,” she said.
Cooper said the team really came together during a pivotal point in the season, when the section and state tournaments rolled around.
“Everyone had more drive and was more upbeat toward the end of the season, compared to the beginning when it seemed like people were a little down,” she explained.
Cooper said her drive really motivates the team because sometimes she gets lazy, but she continues to push herself and then the team sees that and does the same. She said that if she slacks off, then the team will follow; she understands the responsibility is on her as a team captain.
“It is a hit and miss to lead because you can get frustrated, [but] other times I enjoy having the pressure on me,” Cooper expressed. “I think it is important to know your players, and when you see someone getting down on themselves, [that’s] not [the] time to do it too. You have to try to pick them up.”
The Lady Eagles faced the Tempe Prep Knights in the sectional tournament. Cooper said she doesn’t think their mindset was right at the start of the game, and when they went to make changes in the middle of the game, it was too late. But after advancing to the state tournament, the team was hyped to play in Prescott Valley.
“In the locker room everyone was dancing, pumped up and passing the ball around,” she said. “Everyone was more excited because we knew it was our last chance in this final tournament and we had to give it our all.”
Cooper said she prepared by pushing herself harder during drills and running a lot to get used to Prescott’s increase in elevation. She also said that after practice she would shoot more because there would be times when everyone would need to be shooting instead of driving to the hoop and she wanted to be able to take charge when the team called upon her.
Teammate Manuel said playing basketball is a way for her to express herself, be part of team and have a lot of fun. She said when she first started playing she wasn’t very good, but she has since improved and makes big contributions on the court.
“I feel like I bring drive to the court, because sometimes people get down, and I feel like because I am more energetic, I can help,” she said.
She said bringing drive to the team is an important piece of the puzzle. At times the team hasn’t been ready to go, and they have lost because they lacked the energy they needed to pull out the win. But Manuel’s energy has helped them throughout the season.
To get ready for games, Manuel said she listens to music and thinks about how she can help her team. With a young roster and only two seniors graduating, Manuel said the girls made the best of this season, although they lost in the semifinals.
“We still have a long way to go, and we can do it with our team coming back next year,” she said.