ACTION UNDERNEATH Hannah Sellards waits out a block by Rio Lindo’s Belen Hernandez (10) in the cross-town rivalry game on Nov. 16. Healdsburg won 55-21 this year.

Last year’s girls basketball team from Healdsburg, the Lady Hounds, were a force to be reckoned with, amassing a 24-5 record overall and dominating the North Bay Redwood League with an 11-1 record.

They took that success three games deep into the Division 4 playoffs, losing in the semis to Lick Wilmerding, a college prep school in San Francisco.

But coach Jim Lago can afford to be only cautious about the team’s chances this year. “We’ve lost some key players,” he said last week. “Right now we lost about 30 points between three girls who played last year, and we haven’t added anybody.”

“We’re just trying to make up for it with grit,” he said, before the Lady Hounds took to the boards at Rio Lindo Academy on Nov. 16 for a match with neighboring Rio Lindo.

Whatever hopes the Lady Spartans had of an upset went quickly by the wayside. After a sluggish start the Greyhound Girls found their rhythm, and the basket, and racked up a 27-13 lead at the half. They extended that quarter by quarter to finish with a 55-21 win.

“A good test for Rio Lindo, but the quickness and defensive play of Healdsburg will be something for them to improve on as they look to make back-to-back CIF state appearances,” said Rio Lindo Athletic Director Kevin Hardesty.

“They were a lot better than Rio Lindo usually is,” said a gracious coach Lago. “We put up a lot of defensive pressure, just pushing and running and pushing and running.”

LAYUP Hannah Sellards breaks free for a layup in front of Rio Lindo’s Zaylee Vazquez (32) and Chitalu Munanga (24). (Christian Kallen photo)

Still, the shallow roster remained concerning. “We only have seven players right now, which is notable,” said Lago. “We’re sharing the ball with everybody. Everybody’s participating offensively and defensively and just doing an amazing job.”

Only seven players on the roster leaves two on the bench to spell relief for the hard-working Hounds, and no room for injuries.

An eighth player should be joining the team at any time, though. Allie Espinoza started the season hobbled by an ankle injury, but the girls and their coach hope she’s on the mend and on the way back. “She was one of our key offensive players last year,” said Lago.

The Nov. 16 game’s high scorer was Rio Lindo’s Belen Hernandez, with 13 points. Greyhounds’ scoring was led by Amelia Wickersham with 11 points, Ruby Leffew with 10 and Hailey Web with 9.*

Following the Rio Lindo game, the Healdsburg girls had a busy weekend, and a successful one. To build on their Nov. 15 opening game against Petaluma, which they won 43-37, they drowned Clear Lake on Nov. 17, 68-16, and swamped Lower Lake 52-28 on Nov. 18.

A Monday, Nov. 20 win over Analy 49-46 gives Healdsburg a 5-0 record two weeks into the 2023-24 season. Later this week they meet Fort Bragg at home, at 3pm on Saturday, Nov. 25.

* Scoring totals updated from publication date.

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2012, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.

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