All-Empire Small-School Girls Basketball: Mehtlan pushed through the pain

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Alicia Mehtlan refused to let a broken finger interrupt a successful senior season. Playing through pain, the Willits forward averaged almost 19 points a game to lead the Wolverines back to the North Coast Section playoffs.

Mehtlan revealed her passion and toughness, battling a broken finger on her main shooting hand sustained two games into league play.

Willits senior Alicia Mehtlan (Christopher Chung/The Press Democrat)

Willits senior Alicia Mehtlan (Christopher Chung/The Press Democrat)

“My mindset was to push through it,” Mehtlan said. “My team was always there to boost me up. They always reminded me I had to push everyone to do their best.”

Just as demanding of her own game, Mehtlan was a better defender and rebounder this season. Improved conditioning was the foundation for her improvement.

“She’s a pretty complete player. She just took it to another level. The team rallied behind her,” Eric Mehtlan, her coach and father, said.

Mehtlan’s season highlights included:

Leading Willits to a fourth consecutive NCL I title. Mehtlan played on the past three teams.

Earning a Las Vegas Lady Wolves Holiday all-tournament selection.

Setting a single-season Willits scoring record with 500 points.

Totaling 1,180 points for her Willits career.

Going into the season, Mehtlan pushed to be a complete player on both ends of the court. Her goal was to improve enough to continue playing at the college level.

The work began with another swim season for the Willits team in spring 2012. Mehtlan’s main events were the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

Then the Willits girls played a busy slate of summer league games. Conditioning with running and weight training helped Mehtlan — and teammates — get quicker and stronger.

“I’ve never felt stronger with the ball. I had that mindset to get the ball and not let anything get in my way,” she said.

Pulling down rebounds became a strength of Mehtlan’s game as much as scoring. Her improved quickness allowed Mehtlan to play at the top of Willits’ pressing defense, trapping and jumping passing lanes.

“She could lock players down,” coach Mehtlan said.

Willits ran its offense through Mehtlan — even with the broken finger on her right hand.

“I never had to come off the court,” Mehtlan said.

Despite lacking strength to shoot 3-pointers and feeling pain on her shooting follow-throughs, Mehtlan found ways to score. She averaged 18.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game.

Improving her post game and driving to the basket with greater frequency made Mehtlan a versatile scorer. More trips to the free throw line resulted in Mehtlan hitting an impressive 72 percent.

The effort left her hand swollen black and blue after games.

“I had to work around the pain,” she said. “There was no way I was going to put my season in jeopardy.”

The season ended with a first-round loss to Marin Catholic in the very tough NCS Division 4 playoffs. So deep was the top small-school division that Willits went on the road despite a sterling 20-7 overall record. Mehtlan had 21 points in the defeat.

“Getting to play against those teams, I loved it. I needed to be a team leader, step up and play my game,” Mehtlan said.

More basketball is yet to come as Mehtlan works on her game and conditioning to play at Santa Rosa Junior College. Mehtlan wants to join the ranks of other small-school standouts who have done well in the SRJC program.

“College is way more intense,” Mehtlan said. “It makes you strive to be a better athlete.”

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

ALL-EMPIRE TEAM

SMALL-SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL
PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Alicia Mehtlan, Willits, Sr.

FIRST TEAM

Samantha Del Bello, Willits, Sr.

Madison Stewart, Cloverdale, Sr.

Ursyla Baumgarten, St. Vincent, Jr.

Kiana Herold, Sonoma Academy, Sr.

Jaque Melendez, Roseland Prep, Sr.

SECOND TEAM

Ashley Hart, Middletown, Jr.

Jasmin Orozco, Cloverdale, Jr.

Zobee Miller, Lower Lake, Jr.

Willow Gallagher, Sonoma Academy, Sr.

Taylor Dilks, Point Arena, Sr.

THIRD TEAM

Zaina Depina, St. Helena, Jr.

Savannah Stoughton, Sonoma Academy, Soph.

Grace Jennings, St. Vincent, Sr.

Kara Robinson, Rincon Valley Christian, Sr.

Keila Creed, Rio Lindo Adventist, Sr.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Kevin Christensen, Sonoma Academy

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