Five sophomores have led the Hancock College women's basketball team to a decent start in its 2017-18 campaign.
Three of them, center Grace Rosa, point guard Taylor Lee-Hammer and guard Karly Beyers, were regulars last year. The other two, guards Hannah Walls and Anamarie Fruge, saw limited playing time last year. They are in the Bulldogs' starting five with Rosa, Lee-Hammer and Beyers this year.
"The difference between where Hannah and Anamarie were when they started here and where they are now is night and day," said third-year Hancock coach Cary Nerelli.
"They have worked extremely hard, and have gotten a good grasp of our offense and defense."
Still, Rosa, Beyers and Lee-Hammer have carried the bulk of the scoring load as Hancock had gotten off to a 2-1 start at press time, heading into Tuesday's home-opening game against Reedley.
The Bulldogs average 64 points a game, and those three have combined for an average of 46 of those. Rosa, at slightly over 17 points a game, is Hancock's leading scorer. Lee-Hammer, at 16, is right behind her.
All five starters have contributed significantly to Hancock's 42-29 average rebounding advantage per game. That's saying something, since every player except two on Hancock's 11-woman roster is listed strictly as a guard.
Rosa averages 11 rebounds a game, Beyers and Walls average eight apiece and Fruge and Lee-Hammer both average six.
Lee-Hammer is a savvy point guard who fit right in with Hancock's fairly deliberate offensive scheme from the time she got to Hancock as a freshman.
"It really wasn't much of an adjustment to running the offense when I got here," said Lee-Hammer, who graduated from Pagosa Springs High School in Colorado.
"Taylor's leadership has been so important," said Nerelli. "She's like an extension of me when she's on the court."
Once again, the match-up zone defense has been a Hancock staple under Nerelli.
"It takes a few games to get used to playing in it, for sure," said Rosa. "But once you've done that, it's easy to get comfortable with it."
Most Hancock games last season were low-scoring as the Bulldogs rode their defense to, according to the school, their first post-season appearance since 1995.
Beyers came on strong, particularly with her outside shooting, as last season went along and that was a big reason why Hancock made it into the post-season.
"It took a little while to get used to basketball at the junior college level. The players are definitely bigger and faster," Beyers said.
"I was able to get used to it pretty quickly, though."
All three of Hancock's games this season have been close, all of them have been on the road and all of them have been low-scoring.
Hancock lost 63-61 at Los Angeles Southwest College, won 65-60 at L.A. Harbor and won 65-62 in overtime at Taft.
"I think the team is about where it was at during this time last year," said Lee-Hammer.
"We definitely have some things to work on, but I think we'll be competitive," said Beyers,
Walls averages eight points a game and Fruge averages six. Hancock's roster is thin as it is and, "We'll definitely need to deepen our rotation down the road," to give the starting five more help, Nerelli said.
"We're working on that."
All the Bulldogs except two graduated from area high schools. Freshman Brianna Rubalcaba graduated from Madera High School.