By all accounts Bethany Wolph has a high basketball IQ so it’s no wonder she has become an impact player as a freshman for Valley Christian.
She spent her early years playing against her sister, Emily, getting broken down by Desert Vista’s senior leader and Santa Clara recruit.
The younger Wolph was brought back up by their mom, Carin, who has a thing for the fundamentals, in the aftermath of her 1-on-1 entanglements with Emily on their half court at their house.
That’s when the IQ kicked in as she realized that she couldn’t pattern her game after Emily, who uses her quickness to take good angles to the basket and drives the opposition crazy while getting her hands on nearly every lazy pass.
“I wasn’t going to beat her off the dribble so I knew I had to become a better shooter,” Bethany said. “She is a lot faster than me and dribbles better than me. She always pushes me and shows me moves, and I try to help her with her shooting.”
It has added up to the younger Wolph finding her comfort level at Valley Christian quickly and helping the Trojans win their first 17 games heading into Friday’s game against Chico Valley to become the Division III favorite.
She ranks second on the team in scoring at 11.6 points a game on the strength of 39 3-pointers, while adding 2.6 steals and 1.4 assists a game.
“She’s playing at a much higher level than I expected,” Valley Christian coach Scott Timmer said. “I thought it would take her time to learn the system, learn our plays and get in the flow, but she has picked it up pretty easily. She’s a great shooter and we’ve asked her to pick it up on the defensive end.”
Emily had a similar impact as a freshman (9.3 points, 3.6 points, 2.3 steals, 2.7 rebounds) for the Thunder and Timmer, who has known the Wolph family for years, knows the common denominator.
“Their mother is a fundamental teacher of the game to an extreme and she’s pressed that into both her daughters and it shows in their game,” he said of his former assistant coach. “Emily has been coming to camp since she was 5 and it has been great seeing her grow into the player she is.”
Emily is also on an undefeated squad — the Thunder was 17-0 and ranked nationally heading into Friday’s game at Desert Ridge — as she does her best (17.9 points, 2.8 steals, 2.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists) to end her career with a state title.
The idea of winning one together sounds nice, but it was never really considered.
“(Valley Christian) was a better fit for her,” Emily said. “I’m glad she went where she felt comfortable instead of going to DV just because I was here because it would have only been on year.”
And now, should everything fall into place, they just might win two state titles.
“That would be awesome,” Emily said. “We have a long way to go, but we are playing well. They are, too. We will see what happens.”
The 5-foot-5 Bethany couldn’t be happier with her decision and how the season is playing out with a month to go.
“I knew the coach here a lot better and just felt like it would be a better fit,” she said. “I really didn’t expect to play this well, but my teammates make it easier. I love them and they are awesome. We work well together and we are unselfish.”
Timmer, who has led the Trojans to two state titles, has seen it firsthand.
“They are ready to go and they are focused,” he said. “I don’t have to come to practice and say, ‘Let’s work hard.’ They motivate and push themselves, and in a good way. They use positive reinforcement and believe they are going to outwork teams.”
It’s a characteristic that fits the Wolph sisters just fine regardless of being two different schools separated by 4.5 miles.
“I feel like we are really smart with the basketball,” Bethany said. “She’s a good leader and I feel like I will be one day.”
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