The athletic Athena Saragoza added leadership and maturity to her game, which made her even more valuable to the Santa Barbara High girls basketball team.
With Saragoza leading the way, the Dons won the Channel League title with a 10-0 record and finished 17-10 overall, playing against tough competition.
The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table is honoring Saragoza as the High School Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and the other high school and college athletes of the year in fall and winter sports are being honored through a virtual format. The Round Table is presenting the awards on its social media platforms of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and on the Noozhawk.com Sports Page.
There are no awards being presented for spring sports because the season was cut short by the pandemic.
In her junior year, Saragoza led the area in scoring with a 23.3 points-per-game average; she shot 42 percent on two-point baskets and 35 percent on three-pointers. She also averaged 2.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals a game.
But Santa Barbara coaches Andrew Butcher and Carlina Gonzalez were more impressed in how she grew as a player and a person.
“Athena has showed great improvement in her maturity as a person and as a competitive athlete,” said Butcher, the Dons’ longtime head coach.
“She has displayed great leadership this past season and has been putting in a lot of work during this Covid time,” Gonzalez said. “She has embraced the challenge to be our leader, and I’m looking forward to this next year and how she will continue to flourish.”
There were several times when Saragoza would take over a game. She scored over 30 points in three consecutive games, including 34 against CIF-SS Division 1 power Chaminade in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
In key league games against rival Dos Pueblos, she tallied 25 and 27 points, respectively, to help the Dons win both meetings en route to an unbeaten title.
“What also separates Athena from most players is her incredible work ethic,” Butcher said. “She continually spends hour after hour trying to master a difficult game.
“She competed on the highest level this past season and was as talented as any one we played against, in my opinion.”