Sometimes what makes a team great is that it’s too young to know any better. Coupled with talent, being oblivious to the expectations can relieve some of the outside pressure.
Or at least that’s the case for the Dewitt Clinton Governors, as they improved to 10-3 on the season with a convincing 67-34 win over the Kipp NYC Bulldogs last Friday evening.
Out of the 11 players on the Clinton roster, six are freshmen, which makes this run even more impressive for the Governors.
Nonetheless, in the eyes of Clinton head coach Elonza Simon, it’s the camaraderie that has propelled this squad to such an impressive record.
“Our defense and them coming together as a team is what’s working for us,” Simon said after his team’s win. “They are buying into the system and trusting each other as teammates. Everybody trusts everybody. Everybody likes everybody.”
The system, solely rooted in respect and encouragement of one another, was evident from the outset. From the start, Clinton imposed its will on the inferior Kipp club. The Governors jumped out to a quick 11-0 lead and never looked back as juniors Heaven Richards and Eliasha Holt each scored 15 points in the win.
“For me, it’s about taking the win for the team,” Holt said. “So any position that I am in, I try to the best of my ability to play good defense and offense, so we could get the lead and the win.”
The Lady Governors’ potent offense put up 37 first-half points and wreaked havoc on the defensive end, holding the Bulldogs to just 15 points by halftime.
The second half was more of the same, and though Kipp was able to put together a few runs, it was too much of an uphill battle for the squad to overcome. Clinton’s physicality, along with the amount of outside shooters the team possesses, is its most lethal weapon.
But the team’s brightest asset—and future—might be freshman Linda Castro. Castro leads the Governors in points with 12.5 per contest, and though she didn’t have her best game from an efficiency standpoint, she scored when she had to, forcing defenders to close out on her from beyond the arc and opening the lane for her teammates to get an easy bucket.
Castro plays with a Stephen Curry-like pace, taking whatever the defense gives her and oftentimes going to her ability to knock down a three-pointer. Castro exudes confidence, but that wasn’t always the case.
“At first I was scared,” Castro said after her 10-point performance. “There were a lot of older people on the team and a lot of expectations, too. But after a few weeks we came together as a family and started trusting each other more. Coach really encourages me to step up my game so one day I might be like the other seniors.”
“I’ve been here at Clinton 11 years coaching girls’ basketball,” assistant coach Hector Tavarez said. “And I think that the best girl that we had was Destini Green. I coached her four years. She averaged 25 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists per game. Linda is better than Destini when she was in the ninth grade. Linda’s upside is incredible.”
That’s saying something. Green, now a sophomore point guard at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, is the all-time leader in points and assists for Clinton. The expectations for Castro are even higher. But as much of the conversation could’ve been about Castro and the future, she and her teammates keep everything in perspective.
“I feel like we have more potential,” Holt said. “We can go higher than what we are now.”
It certainly showed last Friday, and if not this year, the team will have its chance at a city title in the coming seasons.
“Our expectations are always a championship,” Tavarez said. “It’s a long shot, but as long as we keep working hard anything can happen.”