All-Empire Small School Girls Basketball: Kate Bayes Player of the Year

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The best basketball season in Kate Bayes’ remarkable resume was defined by her unselfish play as much as great performances.

Embracing a new position — point guard — and her role to make teammates better, the Empire Small School Girls Basketball Player of the Year led a young Sonoma Academy squad back into the section playoffs. Even as she handed out more assists, Bayes still averaged a double-double.

“I was the go-to person. But I liked getting everyone involved,” Bayes said. “We had a lot of good stuff going, especially later in the season. We came together really well as a team.”

Indeed, the challenge Sonoma Academy coach Kevin Christensen put to Bayes this past season was: Become more of a team player. Bayes — the Coyotes’ only senior — needed to trust teammates’ decision making once she brought the ball up court.

“The great players make their teammates better,” Christensen said. “She helped lead the way for the younger players. That will help the team compete next year. She definitely left a mark on our program.”

As a four-year starter, Bayes scored 2,192 points — a 19.2 per game average. Her single-game best was 44 points in a section playoff as a junior. Also impressive are the more than seven rebounds and four assists Bayes averaged over four seasons.

Hard to picture is Sonoma Academy girls basketball without Bayes. The perennial All-Empire player — and third-team ESPN All-State Division 5 this past season — will lace up her high tops for the University of Nebraska-Omaha next season as the program moves up to NCAA DivisionI play.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I really want to be able to go and make an impact right away.”

To earn minutes as a freshman, Bayes is working this summer on her shot, playing stronger from the left side, and conditioning. Much of summer will be spent in the weight room and open-gym competition in men’s games.
Despite often dominating in small-school play from the start, Bayes always has been determined to improve and play at any level.
More defensive discipline, in addition to improved team play with the ball, was a big area of improvement this past season. The result was less foul trouble and even more playing time for Bayes.

“That’s probably the area where she grew the most,” Christensen said. “Defensively, we could put her on anyone. We rarely substituted for her. She fouled out once.”

Playing most of every game, Bayes averaged a double-double for the season — nearly 24 points and more than 10 rebounds per game.

“I had to be quicker and smarter with fouls to stay in games,” Bayes said. “I was able to do a lot more.”

Losing in the second round of the North Coast Section Division 5 playoffs, Sonoma Academy didn’t go as far as a year earlier when the Coyotes reached the Nor Cal half of the state prep playoffs. Still, the season was rewarding in so many ways for Bayes.

“It was the best of my four seasons,” Bayes said. “This season was so much fun. We did have a lot of success.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

2012 PRESS DEMOCRAT ALL-EMPIRE SMALL SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Kate Bayes, senior, Sonoma Academy

FIRST TEAM
Whitney Dunham, Willits, senior
Alicia Mehtlan, Willits, junior
Shannon Carroll, St. Vincent, senior
Holle Depina, St. Helena, senior
Madison Stewart, Cloverdale, junior

SECOND TEAM
Sierra Hage, Cloverdale, senior
April White, Lower Lake, senior
Jaque Melendez, Roseland University Prep, junior
Sophia Goairan, Rincon Valley Christian, senior
Ursyla Baumgarten, St. Vincent, sophomore

THIRD TEAM
Kat Edmonds, Upper Lake, senior
Khadijah Britton, Round Valley, senior
Chelsea Duran, Willits, senior
Willow Gallagher, Sonoma Academy, junior
Taylor Dilks, Point Arena, junior

COACH OF THE YEAR
Eric Mehtlan, Willits