The early indications were good, but the results were not for the Desert Vista girls basketball team.

The Thunder started the year against two of the state's best programs in Pinnacle and Highland. Since the start of the 2002-03 season, they appeared in a combined eight state title games with Highland winning four times and Pinnacle finishing as runners-up four times.

The Thunder lost by a total of 10 points.

It was a frustrating start for an experienced team that finished last season strong to earn a postseason berth, but some good came of it.

"We proved to ourselves that we could play with anyone," senior post Jaymee Brugman said.

That was reinforced with a nine-game winning streak before the Thunder lost Thursday in the Gray Division championship game at the Nike Tournament of Champions. Nationally-ranked Centennial (Corona, Calif.) proved to be too much as it beat Desert Vista 69-58.

But it doesn't take away from what the Thunder was able to accomplish as it prepared for next week's Northwest Desert Classic in Tucson, and a difficult regular season schedule after the New Year.

"This was what we needed," Desert Vista coach Rachel Proudfoot said. "It was excellent for our confidence. When we come back from the break we have the teams in our (section), along with Xavier and Mountain View. We have to be ready for it."

Proudfoot was really pleased after the 61-55 win over The Bishop's School in the semifinals on Wednesday. The Thunder trailed 16-6 after the first quarter when Bishop's came out with a trap and put Desert Vista in an uncomfortable position.

"We really had not seen it since a scrimmage against Dobson," coach Rachel Proudfoot said. "Last year's team probably would not have bounced back, but we've matured and we showed it in (that) game."

The team has a trio of stars and quality role players that should keep Desert Vista competitive the entire season.

Junior guard Kylie Butler, sophomore guard Emily Wolph, and Brugman do most of the scoring, while senior post Tinisha Toussaint, junior guard Jayla Brown, junior guard Aly Kennedy, junior guard/forward Jordan Bivens, and freshman post Kristine Anigwe are solid contributors.

Butler averaged 14.3 points through eight games, along with 5.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 3.1 steals. Wolph has improved her scoring in her second year on varsity at 16.3 points while adding 3.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.9 steals.

Brugman is the presence down low to keep the perimeter open for the two guards as she averaged 16.5 points and 7.4 rebounds.

She said the team knows as long as it keeps improving they will be a difficult matchup for anyone the Thunder has on the schedule.

"Our hustle, teamwork, and mental part of the game are there," Brugman said. "We are more of a team. It feels great to be together and be one team. When we play like that we can be hard to beat."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JskodaAFN.

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