Last Update: Thursday, May 23, 2013
|One Woman Show|
|Written by Mike Terry|
|Thursday, 07 February 2013 05:09|
Senior Center Ahlisha Henderson Insists She's Not The Only Reason For The Success Of Reseda Girls' Basketball, But She Certainly Is The Primary Reason
Queen Of The Paint - Reseda center Ahlisha Henderson, a senior, is having one of the most dominant individual seasons ever in City Section girls' basketball.
If statistics were the only measure of the quality of a basketball season, then Ahlisha Henderson is enjoying one of the greatest high school years' in Valley area history.
Her numbers aren't just staggering, they're brain freezing; the 17-year-old Reseda High senior is averaging 32.8 points and 31.9 rebounds per game.
She is the main reason that Reseda, which began the week 15-5 overall and in a first place-tie with Kennedy for the Valley Mission League championship, is expected to contend for the City Section girls' Division III title.
It's not hard to envision Henderson, who is solidly built and stands 6-feet-3 – "actually 6-2 and a half," she says with a girlish giggle – being a standout player. It is hard to believe a single player in this day and age could be that dominant in both categories, especially on the boards.
But she has recorded no fewer than 25 rebounds in any game for the Regents, and had a season high of 43 against Sylmar on Jan. 23. As Reseda Coach Brittany Henderson honestly puts it, "Sometimes Ahlisha's been our team's only rebounder" in a game.
And if you didn't know, now you do: Brittany (who turns 25 today, Feb. 7) is Henderson's older sister. Other Henderson family members are also involved in Reseda basketball.
Tiffany Henderson, the oldest sister at 26, coaches the junior varsity. And Father Jerome works as an assistant for both the varsity and JV.
When a player is that dominant statistically, and family members are the coaches, it's easy to speculate that the other players are there primarily to make Henderson look good. Brittany said she and the other Hendersons are "very sensitive" about the other players not just being on the team to serve as go-fers for their youngest sister. "We've had no issues regarding whether there is any type of bias," Brittany said. "Our main focus is 'we're here to run the program,' and our main focus is to do just that. We work well with JV and the varsity. Ahlisha is a player on the team. Each player has a role and each person is doing that role. Everyone is working well.
"I have obligations to all the players. I am here for them in every aspect. I have 12 seniors, and we are at point where the parents know we have their child's interest at a high level." Henderson said she knows it is a team game even with her prodigious output.
She said Reseda's success starts with Crystal Ortega, a senior, whom Henderson said is "one of the best point guards" in the state. Ortega averages 10.7 points and 8.6 assists. "She's the one who manages the game," Henderson said. "She's my role model."
She also points out that she's not the only tall player on the Regents. "There's not just one big person on this team, there are two – (the other being) Adriana Guajardo, who's 6-1. If you want to double me you have to deal with her."
But no matter how talented Ortega and Guajardo may be, they are not going to draw the kind of defensive attention from opponents that Henderson does. It's not uncommon to see two or even three players tracking her every move on the court.
Because Henderson can be bigger and stronger that those defending her, the temptation to simply bully past opponents must be great. But, she says, that's where the 'team' element comes in. If her teammates are open – and they often are – she wants them to shoot.
"My team is really focused on getting me the ball," Henderson said. "And they like to get me the ball. You'll see them to pass up open shots. It's more exciting to them for see what I score than myself sometimes. And they know there are games sometimes when I have to carry them, but there are games where they have to carry me."
A recent game against winless Canoga Park was a case in point. Henderson got off to a slow start for her, not scoring until the second quarter, and not scoring her first basket until the second half. (She finished with 22 points and 26 rebounds in a 61-25 victory.) There were moments during the game when Henderson became mildly exasperated by her teammates' continued efforts to simply get her the ball.
"My team knows where their shots are. They know there will be times when they have to call on me, and times where I have to call on them," Henderson said. "Canoga Park was the kind of game where I had to let the game come to me more; I had to score in different ways than I usually do.
"I wanted my teammates to shoot. We can be overly unselfish at times. One time (a teammate) tried to pass even with having an open layup. It wasn't anything Canoga Park had done. And that got to me. I was telling my teammates, 'those are your shots, take those shots.' It was making me a little frustrated."
Basketball appears to be the family business. Jerome, who works as an assistant to his daughters and also serves as the director of player personnel and development for the Southern California Summer Pro League, had a few brief NBA stops including Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta Milwaukee, San Antonio and the Lakers in the mid-1980s before finishing his professional career overseas.
Both Brittany and Tiffany played high school and college basketball. Brittany remembered when, during the high school games, Henderson would watch them "sitting on dad's lap." Henderson started bouncing basketballs at age 5, and started playing on travel teams at age 10. But she's firm in saying the game wasn't forced on her by family members.
"I always had a choice," she said "It was whatever I wanted to do. And I just gravitated to it. I always thought it was cool…my sisters are eight years older than me. So I would get to watch them play in high school. And I wanted to be like my older sisters. That was big for me."
This is the final week of the regular season, and Reseda and Kennedy – each was 9-1 in league play – likely decided the league championship in their showdown on Wednesday, Feb. 6. (The game was played after the press deadline.)
But the Regents had won 12 straight games since their last loss to San Fernando on Dec. 13 and, regardless, will roll into next week's playoffs a hot team. Reseda went to the City Division III final in 2011, but was soundly beaten by Monroe, 66-27. That was Henderson's sophomore season. If she gets to the final this time, she said she and her teammates would have a greater appreciation for the moment.
"I think I will be more patient with the game. I wasn't before," she said. "It was kind of like we looked up and we were in the stage. Now, we know how to get there and what to do when we get there. The level of experience the whole team has is phenomenal."
The same might be said about the level of Henderson's performance this season.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 07 February 2013 05:14|