The San Mateo girls’ basketball team is off to its best start under fourth-year coach Nancy Dinges and is extremely confident heading into Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division play, which began Tuesday.
The Bearcats (10-3) racked up quality wins against Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo and won the Dons Club Holiday Tournament at Del Mar High School during nonleague play. They are on a seven-game winning streak.
“Our confidence is up. Every team I’ve coached I’ve had a lot of confidence in,” Dinges said. “I always think we can win any game we play in.”
San Mateo finished third in league play last year behind Mills and Terra Nova, but with the Bearcats’ best start under Dinges, she thinks the target has shifted.
“At this point, people are looking at us, ‘Oh, we have to beat San Mateo,’” Dinges said.
San Mateo reached the quarterfinals of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs last season behind the sharp shooting of senior guard Grayce Ujihara.
Ujihara, who hit 10 3-pointers in one game against Terra Nova, graduated and her departure left a big offensive hole.
“Each year is very different. We knew we had to change our offense [with Grace graduating],” Dinges said. “Now we don’t have that 3-point shooter. Now we’re a run-and-gun team.”
That running and gunning has stemmed from Dinges’ emphasis on the team’s defense in nonleague play, and it has paid immediate dividends.
“We need to focus on our defense,” Dinges said. “The girls have done a very good job against the [teams] we’ve played.”
San Mateo has held seven of its 12 opponents to fewer than 40 points, winning six of those games.
“They really believe in it. Know your offense comes from your defense,” she said. “They want to learn the game of basketball.”
One player who has benefited from the run-and-gun offense has been junior guard Alana Simon.
Simon has been the Bearcats’ leading scorer and had her best nights against Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo. The junior scored 27 points against SHP and 28 versus Menlo.
San Mateo will be tested early in league play with its next two opponents being Mills on Friday and Terra Nova on Tuesday.
The Bearcats start league play with their first five games at home before hitting the road for the final five.
San Mateo has not finished with more than six league wins since the 2007-08 season.