I had a lot of fun attending the second annual Yosemite Shootout this past weekend. The tournament included 8 girls basketball teams, mostly from this area but one came from as far away as Colfax, north of Sacramento near Auburn.
The tournament was organized by Badger basketball Coach Gary Blate. I hope the Shootout will become a long-term tradition in Oakhurst. You’ve heard it before so many times, but you have no idea how much Blate has done for Badger sports. The gym ‘make-over’ has been amazing. The new scoreboard and the donations that funded it were triaged from Blate. He also created and paid for all of the new banners you see in the entryway of the gym and those inside. It has really transformed the Badger gym.
Gary’s wife Lori as well as Ellen and John Peterson worked the scorer’s table during the tournament. The many student and parent volunteers, whether at the ticket table or the snack bar, helped make this tournament a success.
But my favorite part was seeing girls JV Coach James Andersen’s team winning the tournament. James and the JV girls went 3-0 surviving a tough 24-23 win against a well-coached Colfax JV squad. The win was a reward for what was beyond a rough season in 2016-17.
Sunday, Jan. 7, was the one-year anniversary of the death of Shania Costella the point guard and leader of Andersen’s team last year. The Costella family and the whole community were shaken over Shania’s death. The Costella’s still grieve and will for a long time.
Shania’s passing also hit Andersen, his family, and his team hard last year. The JV girls went 8-13 last season, Andersen’s second year at the helm. To see his team now at 12-2 and having a legit shot to win the North Sequoia League title is truly amazing, especially with just two sophomores on the team. Good karma I guess.
Andersen exemplifies what a true volunteer coach should be. He is selfless by giving so much of his personal time. Andersen is the owner of Sierra Landscape Maintenance and these days he works 12+ hours a day at work and coaching. His wife Terri, a working mom, is at every game working the scorer’s table. Their daughter Kaylee is a sophomore and a key member of this team. In the off-season Andersen coaches the girls AAU team. It’s truly a family affair.
“I have coached this group of girls since the 5th grade,” Andersen said. “Our team is a family. We pretty much play all year round which is why we trust each other. Last year, I only made it through the season because of them. It has been great to work under Gary (Blate). He has taught me a lot.”
Andersen cares about his players. During the Colfax game only the starters played. In the title game against Kingsburg, his backups started and played most of the minutes. You just don’t see that in coaching these days. “I teach our girls to play not for yourself but for the girl beside you. Besides our talent, this group works hard and believes in each other. It is how we win,” Andersen said. And perhaps this group of players will certainly continue the Badgers basketball program’s success in the future.
Shania’s legacy lives on. Shania’s cousin freshman Britney Allen is the JV team’s leading scorer and a future star. Britney’s brother Dylan, a junior is a sharp-shooting forward for the varsity boy’s. Shania’s photo (No. 30) adorn the inside of the Badger gym. Shania’s team won. No doubt Shania looks down at all this with a smile.