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Second-year head coach is getting the Warriors to compete night in and night out

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha senior captain Jay Dian Menguita and the Warriors are out to right their wrongs after last year.

Watch Katy Wilson stalk the Aloha girls' basketball sideline, pacing up and down with a brisk gait, usually with her arms extended, sometimes in a defensive crouch and it's clear the head coach has the competitive gene.

There are moments in the middle of the game where Wilson looks ready to change places with one of her players and show precisely what she wants done on the defensive end. A stellar three-sport athlete in college, Wilson looks young enough to jump in the fray and teach her squad in a hands-on fashion. More than anything Wilson wants to help her team thrive, to teach the game she so dearly loves, to coax the same fire out of them that rages deep inside her DNA.

Admittedly, Aloha hasn't exactly been a basketball authority over the years. Wilson knew this when she accepted the job last year and was on the wrong side of way too many boat racings for her taste. The losing didn't bother her. Wilson was well aware of what she was getting herself into. But the lack of competitive spirit irked her moral fiber. Raised in Waldport, a small, hardscrabble Lincoln County school on the Oregon Coast, groomed by Portland area gurus such as Howard Avery as a player, Wilson can't stand waving the white flag. Rolling over and accepting defeat is the last thing she stands for, as a former player, an ex-athlete and now as a coach.

There were moments last season where Wilson's will was bent, not broken, but warped by Aloha's supposed apathy. The Warriors were used to losing long before Wilson's arrival and had become content with the results. Yet, Wilson refused to throw in the towel. She reinvested in the cultivating of culture, doubled down on demanding more accountability from her players, and instilled values and principles that are non-negotiable when it comes to playing in an Aloha uniform. The Warriors would stand for something more than themselves. Over the summer Wilson said Aloha focused on character development, leadership and team building, hoping to get a feel for what the Warriors want to be known for in the Metro League.

"We're going to fight," Wilson said. "We're not going to let teams come in and just get the win. We're going to fight for it. I want to change the intensity level. Last year was a battle. I had a lot of long nights. It definitely didn't fit who I am. But I'm proud of the girls coming in and working hard. We have better team cohesion this year, that helps. We still have a long way to go. We have to understand what it means to compete before we can do anything else."

The process won't happen overnight. Against Reynolds in a tough-to-swallow loss, Aloha was undone by open shots that were well executed but didn't drop. The Warriors moved the ball selflessly, found cracks in the Raider defense, swung the rock from side to side and got great looks from inside and out. Yet those attempts didn't fall, a byproduct, Wilson said, of a lack of gym time over the summer and beyond. The tide is shifting, surely. Players are scrapping for wins and playing together. But personally, each has to decide to turn Aloha back into respectability.

"You can't become a shooter during the season," Wilson said. "That's exactly what I told my players. If you want to become a shooter, it takes offseason work. These girls have to want to buy in and want to change the culture. I think we're doing that. It's a big improvement this season for sure."

Aloha went 2-22 overall last year and didn't have a merging of transfers come in in the offseason to save the day. Some of those losses last season were by 60 points. Others by 40 or more. But the difference between now and then is night and day, senior Jay Dian Menguita said.

"There is more hunger, more fight, more 'I'm going to get that ball no matter, even if I have to dive into the stands, I'm going to go get it," Dian Menguita said. "Alex Porpora is our best player, probably one of the best in the league. She won't go down without a fight and I think that generates through everybody. As long as we have that one spark, it'll all work together. I'm really excited about what's to come. I know we're going to be a different type of Aloha. I feel it. I really do."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha senior guard Alex Porpora and the Warriors are out to right their wrongs after last year.

Away from the game, Dian Menguita said Aloha has forged much better team chemistry. The connection is stronger, capable of withstanding long ruts or scoring droughts. The senior said her team has each other's backs off the floor and that carries over to the court. There are weeks when Aloha will practice twice a day, once at 6 a.m. and again after school, putting in work, trying to expedite the improvement from within.

Wilson is a commodity in coaching circles because of her knowledge of the game and intensity in getting the best out of her teams. She's teaching the game, dispersing crash courses on the basics, the ins and outs, the nuances that are often overlooked. Already, Aloha is playing and thinking about the game at a higher level. The future is promising. Forty-eight girls tried out for the program this year, more than Mountainside and some of the other more heralded schools in Mero. Wilson hopes to start a youth team soon and build a pipeline to the high school level. Wilson is also the head volleyball coach at Aloha and works with the track team. She hopes to see this undertaking through and ingrain that competitive ethos that is so valuable in her mind's eye.

"We're blessed to have Coach Wilson and the team we have right now," Dian Menguita said. "There is definitely a future for Aloha basketball. Last year we were kind of figuring it out…but we know what we want now. We know how to make it clear."

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