Girls’ varsity basketball continues to find rhythm in league opening loss to Aragon


Zachary Newman

Sophomore Jillian Kiniris drives to the basket for a layup in the fourth quarter of Burlingame’s season league opener against Aragon. Kiniris would be fouled and make both free throws as part of her 5 points, 2 rebounds and 3 block effort.

Zachary Newman, Sports Editor

Girls’ varsity basketball (2-10), struggled to find the bottom of the hoop in their league opener against Aragon High School (7-7) on Wednesday, Jan. 11. The Dons hung on to win 43-31, extending Burlingame’s losing streak to ten games.  

After both teams jumped out to a quick start, Aragon’s defense settled into the game and applied immediate pressure. Burlingame could not handle the Dons’ defensive aggressiveness, and Panther turnovers translated to fast breaks for Aragon. An Aragon three-pointer punctuated a 9-2 run to finish the opening quarter. 

Burlingame still kept the score close in the second quarter with impressive defense of their own. Sophomore Jillian Kiniris blocked a pair of Aragon shots on one play to set up two points on the other end. 

But starting the second half with an eight-point advantage, the Dons hit their defensive stride. They jumped into passing lanes to set up easy layups on offense, forcing over 20 Panther turnovers throughout the night.

“[Our team is] adapting to the intensity level of varsity basketball,” head coach Joe Dito said. “We have nine brand new girls and most of them only have a half season under their belts of playing varsity basketball.”

So far this season, the Panthers have struggled to score consistently, averaging just over 30 points per game. However, there have certainly been flashes of dynamic plays, like a Kiniris reverse layup around two defenders in the second quarter. 

“Having [the game] be at home, it added energy, and it helped me play better because I had my team cheering me on,” Kiniris said.

Finding reliable contributors is a season-long process, but many players have stepped up. Senior Malia Schmidt is a force in the paint, averaging about 10 rebounds per game and grabbing nine against Aragon. Sophomores have also provided a scoring boost; Miranda Sibley led the way with seven points, Kiniris added five and Hailey Miller added four in the Dons game. 

“All of them impressed,” Dito said. “Everyone who was in there played great. Everyone stepped up. I thought they all played well.”

The Panthers and Dons are familiar opponents: The two squads faced off in the Central Coast Section tournament semi-finals, where Aragon prevailed 55-53 in an overtime thriller. 

enior and co-captain Vanessa Li guard Aragon’s Maya Yoo in the third quarter of Burlingame’s season opener versus Aragon. One of just three returning players from last season, Li has provided veteran leadership and experience for the younger players. (Zachary Newman)

This season, however, both the Dons and the Panthers are treating each game as a teaching experience. Each team has seen drastic roster changes since last year— the Dons’ two leading scorers graduated, and remarkably enough, every player that contributed to the Panthers’ 53-point total from last season’s game is no longer on the roster. 

Tasked with a new challenge, Dito has focused more on helping his players learn to play with one another this season, and that success in a game isn’t necessarily measured by the final score.

“I thought [we] communicated very well tonight,” Dito said. “We played together. They picked each other up when things weren’t going well. I thought this was probably the best game that we played as a team all season.”

The team’s lack of experience means there is ample room to grow and improve, especially in cutting down on turnovers and finishing around the rim. The team has also made great strides since the beginning of the season, executing plays better and improving spacing on offense.

“[We’ll] keep getting stronger as a team, progressing and growing more,” Kiniris said. “I think we were all excited that we played the best that we ever had together.”