They have something to prove and that could be the catalyst for Mountain Pointe’s girls basketball team this season.

The Pride struggled through a 3-21 season last year, but the five returning players didn’t abandon the program.

“We’ve got a good core that stayed with the program the last two years and they’re a lot more committed,” said Pride coach Trevor Neider, who moved up from the junior varsity team after Tony Ramseyer stepped down at the end of last season.

Ramseyer remained as the Pride boys golf coach.

Neider had also been Ramseyer’s assistant on the girls varsity basketball program.

“Tony and I had some of the same philosophies,” Neider said, “but we’ve changed some things on the court, too. We’ll still play man-to-man defense, but we’ll be playing a little more up-tempo.”

To handle that kind of style the entire team went through a weight-training program and played a schedule of 30 games during a summer league.

“In the past we played about 10 games, so we’re starting to get a different mentality,” Neider added. “We played teams like Gilbert and we weren’t down by 30 points after the fist five minutes. We played respectably.”

Gilbert was the fourth seed in the state playoffs last season and made it to the semifinals.

Seniors Katie Nemecek, Gabby Johnson and Josalynn Tallsalt are among the returning players. Others include juniors Aleks Cataruzolo and Nikki Villescaz.

Nemecek led the team in scoring last season, averaging 15 points per game.

Neider has also added five players from last season’s junior varsity along with senior point guard Shanice Henderson, who transferred from South Dakota over the summer.

The Pride are also getting a break in moving out of the Central Region, where they played powerhouses like Desert Vista, Corona del Sol and Basha, and into the reformed East Valley conference.

“That helps quite a bit,” Neider said. “We were in a tough league with some solid teams.”

This season the league schedule will include Gilbert Perry and Mesa Desert Ridge, as well as Marcos de Niza, Mesa Westwood and Mesa Skyline.

“There is still some good competition,” Neider added. “Perry and Desert Ridge are good teams, but we’re still a small 5A-I school and it will help playing teams our own size.”

The Pride were scheduled to open with a five-game tournament this week before the regular season starts on Dec. 1 at home against defending state champion Gilbert Highland.

“We’re just trying to build our confidence,” Neider said. “This is a good opportunity to work out the kinks before the regular season starts.”

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