The girls basketball team is 19 games into its season and eight games deep in league play. But for coach Mike Evans, the Lady Hawks are just rounding into shape.
The squad was dealt a major blow at the outset of the season when senior point guard Hallie Brauner, who Evans viewed as his top player and the key cog in facilitating the team’s offense, decided not to play basketball this season, opting to focus exclusively on her promising track and field prospects.
“That was really a major hit for us and we’re still dealing with it,” Evans said.
Brauner’s loss impacted the team all over the court, Evans said. Scoring leader Jenna May has seen defenses concentrate on her and she struggled in the early part of the season. Evans said Tam has missed Brauner’s ability to get her teammates easy baskets as well as her willingness to put her imprint on a game at key moments.
“We’re lacking a player that can take the game over,” he said. “That’s what she brought to the team. That’s a big thing that you miss.”
Evans said he kept the door open to Brauner’s return into the first few weeks of the season.
“Obviously we would be a much better basketball team,” he said. “With that kind of a point guard coming back, who knows how good we’d be right now.”
But at 12-7 and 5-3 in Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) play, the Lady Hawks are in third place in the league with another shot to make a playoff run. They visit Justin-Siena tonight at 6 p.m.
“Our team is doing well and they’re settling in and they’re adjusting,” Evans said. “Players have really developed.”
That includes multi-sport athlete Jane Lee, who transitioned to point guard in Brauner’s absence and is getting more comfortable with each game, Evans said.
And it includes a trio of sophomores with bright futures on the basketball court. Amanda Barriscale, Elizabeth Archer and Caitlin Byrne have all stepped up in a big way this season, Evans said.
“They’re playing exceptional basketball right now,” Evans said. “They give us a huge lift and their improvement has been amazing. They’ve changed the dynamics of our team.”
As proof, Evans pointed to Barriscale and Archer combining for 26 rebounds in Tuesday’s 39-28 win over Redwood, with Barriscale tallying 17 boards.
“That changed the entire basketball game,” he said.
Despite a solid season and a likely playoff berth, Evans doesn’t have to look far too be reminded of how formidable the Lady Hawks might be with Brauner, as his former point guard has been at almost every home game.
“She roots for them like crazy,” said David Brauner, Hallie’s dad.
Evans remains upset that Brauner wasn’t chosen for any of the all-MCAL teams at the end of last season despite finishing in the top 10 in the league in a slew of categories and leading Tam to 19 wins. He hopes the snub didn’t factor into Brauner’s decision to quit basketball.
Brauner, who was rated the 13th best prep girls basketball player in the Bay Area by one ranking service, said she was shocked and disappointed that she didn’t make all-league. But she emphasized that it had no impact on her decision.
“It was a really difficult for me to stop playing because I’d been playing for nine years and we have great coaches and great teammates,” Brauner said. “It just came down to that, at this point in my life, I would like to focus on track. That (MCAL snub) didn't factor into my decision at all.”
As for her continued interest in supporting her former teammates, Brauner said it’s a no brainer.
“It’s really hard for me to go sometimes because I want to be out there, but I have to root them on,” she said. “How can I not?”