Tough Preseason Schedule Has Buena Park Girls Ready for Freeway League Play

Tough Preseason Schedule Has Buena Park Girls Ready for Freeway League Play

Buena Park High School sophomore Bella Harmon handles the ball during a recent home game. (Courtesy of Alexis Martinez)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

1/2/2024

Updated: 1/11/2024

BUENA PARK, Calif.—Owners of a 9–7 record that includes four losses in the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions in Mesa, Arizona the week before Christmas, Buena Park High School’s girls’ basketball team might not appear primed for this week’s beginning of Freeway League play.
The Coyotes would beg to differ.
Buoyed by the recent addition of two of its three promising transfer players, Buena Park will begin pursuing what would be the first Freeway League championship in school history against visiting La Habra at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 5.
“We can’t wait for that game,” junior point guard Hannah Fuentes told The Epoch Times.
Despite not having a single senior on their roster, the Coyotes are attempting to build on what last season’s team accomplished. After finishing 8–2 and second to unbeaten Sonora in league play, Buena Park advanced to the championship game of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4-A tournament and the second round of the Southern California Division III regional to highlight a 25–8 campaign.
“Top to bottom, we have a much stronger team this year,” Coyotes Coach DeAnthony Wiley told The Epoch Times.
Coach DeAnthony Wiley instructs players before a high school basketball game at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Mesa, Arizona the week before Christmas 2023. (Courtesy of Brenda Bermudez)

Coach DeAnthony Wiley instructs players before a high school basketball game at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Mesa, Arizona the week before Christmas 2023. (Courtesy of Brenda Bermudez)

Fuentes and fellow junior transfers Gloria Barrera and Mya Barnes have a lot to do with that. They join five returning players—junior Melia Hinojos, and sophomores Ava Wiley, Bella Harmon, Destiny McNabb, and Alana White.
Fuentes, though, is the only member of the team’s transfer triumvirate who has been eligible all year. After having played her initial two high school seasons at Orangewood Academy in Garden Grove, Fuentes established residence within Buena Park’s attendance boundaries and was thus able to compete immediately.
Barrera and Barnes, who arrived from St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs and Rosary Academy of Fullerton, respectively, became eligible only two games ago after having honored the necessary sit-out period for other transfer students.
Neither was available when the Coyotes ventured to Arizona for a tournament that included some of the top teams in the country.
Including a 58–35 defeat at the hands of eventual tournament champion Bullis of Potomac, Maryland, Buena Park dropped its four games by an average of 20 points.
“I could have chosen to play in a lesser division and go there and get four wins,” Mr. Wiley said. “My thing is I’d rather get punched in the mouth and then come back home and kind of be the bully on the block, rather than go there, get four wins, make everybody happy, and then come here and kind of have to re-find yourself.”
Interestingly, the Coyotes took the same approach, and had the exact same results, in the Arizona tournament last season before going on to greater glory.
“I let them know prior that if we were to win a game, we are overachieving,” Mr. Wiley said. “And if we were to come away with what we did, it’s kind of to be expected. Our thing is a CIF championship in California. I use the out-of-state stuff to just try to get battle-tested, to come home and see if we can pass the test here.”
Still, that philosophy could be a tough sell, especially with teenagers.
Buena Park High School junior Gloria Barrera makes a shot in a recent home game. (Courtesy of Alexis Martinez)

Buena Park High School junior Gloria Barrera makes a shot in a recent home game. (Courtesy of Alexis Martinez)

“In Arizona, we got beat really bad,” Fuentes said. “I wasn’t sad at all. A lot of us were mad that we lost, obviously, but I knew that playing those hard teams would make us better. We’re young. Those girls were a lot stronger and bigger than kids we’re going to play here.”
After returning home and going through a couple of lengthy, demanding practice sessions, Buena Park responded with one-sided victories over Los Alamitos and Mayfair of Lakewood.
Even Barrera, who was not able to participate in Arizona, saw the benefits.
“I feel like they played hard out there,” she told The Epoch Times. “We were missing some girls. We weren’t at full strength, but it was good to go out there and play against hard competition. I feel like we can make it far in CIF. I feel like this team is really special. We have a lot of talent.”
Including freshman Riley Higgins and junior Tamila Fanene, the Coyotes are still working to establish something resembling a set lineup rotation. At the same time, they have the benefit of a rigorous practice and workout schedule that has featured daily 6 a.m. skills-development sessions for weeks.
That is in addition to the standard practices and weight-training workouts after school.
“The kids and the families have to believe in what I’m trying to do,” Mr. Wiley said. “It’s going to mirror a college schedule more than it will a high school schedule. I feel like it’s kind of the secret to success, but it’s not the only ingredient in the recipe. The kids and the parents have to buy in. Sometimes I wonder if the schedule is harder on the parents because they have to get up and get the kids here. So, you definitely need some perspective, and the parents have believed in my crazy vision.”
Crazy or not, that vision also includes the girls going on to college, something that has not always been commonplace for Buena Park students but which several of Mr. Wiley’s former players have already achieved.
“At the end of the day, wins are good,” he said. “A title would be great, but if I get kids to college, that’s all I’m really focused on. Six or seven years ago, when I got the job, I came in here and asked the girls, ‘Who wants to go to college?’ I had one kid out of the whole program raise her hand. If I were to ask today, all 10 kids would be raising their hands.”
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Dan Wood

Dan Wood

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Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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