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NBL girls basketball: Maria Carrillo's Sowards set for senior season … and beyond

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Following a breakout junior season, Aaliyah Sowards has earned a shot at the next level with Menlo College. The All-Empire guard from Maria Carrillo has her senior season to prepare for the college basketball game.

“I need to get in the weight room a little bit more and get faster,” Sowards said. “I definitely have a really good chance to start at Menlo.”

Such confidence on the court drew the notice of college coaches. Menlo officials contacted Sowards after watching her compete for an Empire team in a summer AAU tournament.

“She is an extremely versatile guard that can do it all,” said Menlo coach Shannon Osborne. “She is a great defender, she can score, she sees the floor extremely well, and she is a great leader.”

Menlo, in Atherton, is an NAIA program. The Lady Oaks last season won the California Pacific Conference Championship and played in the NAIA Division II National Tournament, following three straight second-place conference finishes.

Academics were a draw for Sowards, who also was contacted by Sonoma State and Cal State Monterey Bay. She plans to major in business at the Silicon Valley school.

Sowards’ smarts on the basketball court were evident in helping lead Maria Carrillo to the North Bay League title last season. A force at both ends, Sowards averaged nearly 10 points a game, adding eight assists and five rebounds per contest. Most impressive were her six steals a game.

Always fearless going to the basket, Sowards worked this past summer on finishing more scoring chances and improving her outside shot. Sowards also is rarely satisfied with her defense.

“I’ve had to work on my game a lot the past year,” she said.

Going into her fourth year as a Maria Carrillo varsity starter, Sowards looks forward to having fun and being a team leader. Several starters return for the Pumas.

“I have to step up and lead the team. I just have to prove my leadership and show respect to everyone,” Sowards said. “If I can do that, it will show I’m ready to move to the next level.”

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