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Senior duo reinforces varsity basketball

A successful sports season often requires dedication and determination, and girls’ basketball is no exception. Such qualities are displayed on the team by senior captain Michele Graham, a veteran varsity player, and senior Fatima Costa, embarking on her first year on the varsity team.

Although basketball has a relatively long season, both Graham and Costa look forward to showing fans how far they have come. The girls express the importance of playoffs, at which they intend to showcase the product of their work over the season.

“I am ready to go out there and prove people wrong,” Graham said. “I want to show them that we actually do have potential, even though many people did not even expect us to make it this far.”

Last season, the varsity team won the CIF Central Section Division V Championship, which caused the team to move into Division IV this year during playoffs. This new challenge provided excitement for Costa, who was a late addition to the team, she said.

“Playing in Division IV puts you in a different mindset,” Costa said. “Every game is a battle, because it could go either way. I feel, though, that we have a good chance of winning Division IV.”

For the season, head coach Josh Tosland stresses team unity and bonding, as indicated by the team sweatshirts that read: “Teams fall apart … but a family stands together.” Tosland emphasizes the importance of each player’s contribution toward a successful season.

“In basketball, you do not know what the other team is going to do; they might deny one of your players the ball, which requires someone else to step up,” Tosland said. “It is very hard when you are not on your game and have a hard time contributing. But if one has the the right mindset to keep playing for the good of the team, then good things are bound to happen.”

Veteran Graham leads team by example

Graham began her basketball career in fifth grade at FC, after fellow senior captain Ashlyn White convinced her to join. Since then, she has come to view the team as a family.

“I love the team aspect of the sport; I have never played a sport before where the team is so much like a family,” Graham said. “I consider these girls my sisters, and I cannot say that about any other sport that I have participated in.”

As Graham progressed in basketball, Tosland recognized her dedication to the sport and to her team.

“Michele is a constant worker; she will never just sit down on the side, but will try to improve,” Tosland said. “Her attitude of always trying to do her best is a great model for others to follow.”

Graham, however, attributes much of her success to Tosland’s encouragement and knowledge of basketball.

“Tosland encourages me to play with everything I have, and I try giving 100 percent every game,” Graham said. “He notices and recognizes me for that. It is always encouraging when a coach recognizes you. He is a very good coach because he knows the sport very well and is always thinking about the team.”

Graham says she has experienced personal growth this season that has allowed her to relate better to her teammates. After the death of ’10 alumna and varsity player Paige Armstrong-Maltos earlier in the season, the team become more unified.

“Paige’s death made me reevaluate how I live my life,” Graham said. “As a team, we had all been through a tragedy, so we all had a closer bond. It really made us come together, and because of that we just relied more on each other.”

In addition to the strength of the basketball team, Graham says she looks to her older brother, Tyler Graham, ’09 alumnus, for encouragement in both the sport and daily life.

“My brother has encouraged me to just always push through everything, and not just basketball,” Graham said. “In life, my brother is giving me advice. It also helps that he played basketball in high school, so he is always giving me pointers.”

According to teammate Allison Camden, ’12, Graham’s leadership style has proved to be an asset to the team.

“Michele leads by the way she plays and she communicates with everyone the best,” Camden said. “She is not selfish and always tries to do what’s best for the team. Personally, I do not think she gets enough credit for everything she does.”

In addition, Costa recognizes Graham’s individual strength and dedication to basketball.

“[Graham] is able to get on you about things without being overbearing,” Costa said. “I trust her on the court because I know she will do whatever it takes to help the team, whether it is shooting or playing defense. She is like the silent killer, because out of nowhere in games she will just start draining three-pointers.”

Costa serves as positive varsity addition

Like Graham, Costa cites the family aspect of basketball as one of the driving forces behind her interest and dedication. However, after joining late in the season and recognizing the unity of the team, Costa worried whether she would fit in with the varsity players. Even though their bond is close, Costa has found that they are open to welcoming new players.

“I enjoy being a part of the basketball team because I love the family atmosphere the team brings,” Costa said. “I thought it might be difficult coming onto a team that was already so close, but they have all been so welcoming. We are genuinely happy for each other when we succeed, and I think that is something really special.”

Costa attributes her interest and success in basketball to her older brother, Wes Wells, ’06 alumnus, who taught her the necessary skills at a young age.

“When I was little, my brother played basketball,” Costa said. “He taught me how to play in our front yard when I was 7 years old. I always wanted to play like him. After that, I played from fifth grade until ninth grade.”

Because she had wanted a stress-free senior year, Costa initially decided not to play basketball. But after two members of the team were injured, Costa was presented with the opportunity to come on mid-season.

“I did not join in the beginning of the season because I wanted to take senior year off,” Costa said. “[Athletic Director Cynthia] Ward asked me if I wanted to play, so I thought about it and talked to Michele. It was great joining because I love the game, and I was given the opportunity to play even though it was later in the season.”

According to Tosland, Costa has meshed well with the team because of her easygoing personality and previous experience with current members.

“The extra player was only positive because of who it was,” Tosland said. “The coaches definitely considered the chemistry issues that can arise, but felt very comfortable with adding a player that late in the season.”

After playing with Costa this season, Camden appreciates her willingness to join the team and serve as an encouragement to her fellow players.

“Fatima is such a positive addition to the team,” Camden said. “With only five people able to play before she came, we really needed her, especially at the Caruthers game, when two of our players fouled out. She did great that game, and it is really nice to have her.”

The Eagles will play in the semifinals for the CIF Central Section Division IV playoffs at Sierra High School, beginning at 7 p.m., March 1.

For more information on girls’ basketball, read the Girls’ basketball sport shorts, 2010-11, Part II.

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