April 6, 2020

Bay Area Preps HQ’s girls basketball player of the year had big shoes to fill

SAN JOSE — Ashley Hiraki is not Haley Jones.

She’ll never be. Her coach never expected it. Who could be?

Hiraki is a 5-foot-7 point guard at Archbishop Mitty who was barely on the radar of NCAA Division I programs at the start of her senior year.

In contrast, Jones finished her high school career as the nation’s top recruit, coveted by the likes of UConn, Notre Dame, Oregon and South Carolina before opting to play at Stanford.

Those are big shoes to fill.

“Everyone said, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be a huge drop-off,’” said Hiraki, one of only two seniors on the roster. “So I think for me, it was just kind of like, ‘Well, I don’t want to end my senior year that way and I wanted to step up and show everyone that this team is a force to be reckoned with.’”

Hiraki turned into a vocal leader unafraid of big-time moments to become the Bay Area Preps HQ’s player of the year, as selected by the high school staff of the Bay Area News Group.

“She was the one that dictated our tempo and kept the troops together when the wheels got a little wobbly,” Mitty coach Sue Phillips said. “She’s the worker bee. She brought her lunch pail every day to practice and just grinded every single day for us for the past four years.”

Coming Friday: All-Bay Area Preps HQ boys, girls basketball teams

A role player in the past, Hiraki took charge of the Monarchs during a campaign that included no losses to any teams in Northern California.

But the season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic before a showdown in the California Interscholastic Federation Open Division state final against La Jolla Country Day — a matchup at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento between the top two teams in the nation, according to MaxPreps.

“This game could have gone either way,” Hiraki said. “And I think that just not being able to play, it’s kind of heartbreaking.”

Hiraki, the West Catholic Athletic League player of the year, led the Monarchs with 12.4 points and 3.4 steals per game, on top of averaging 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

Archbishop Mitty’s Ashley Hiraki (31) led to Monarchs to a 64-40 victory over Cardinal Newman in the NorCal Open Division semifinals en route to a spot in the CIF state final, which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Tony Avelar/Bay Area News Group) 

The Cal State Northridge-bound standout felt Mitty flipped a switch in late December during the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona, where two years earlier one of her favorite memories included a victory over St. Mary’s-Stockton that propelled the Monarchs’ status as No. 1 in the nation.

But the burden of following in the footsteps of Jones — a three-time POY — initially appeared overwhelming.

“At first I felt like the pressure was on,” said Hiraki, whose mentality changed after a discussion with her coach. “She was like, ‘You don’t want to be exactly like Haley. You don’t want to be her. You want to be your …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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