Second-year Pioneer Valley girls basketball coach Michael Bloodworth and some of his players said there was no one point where the team's confidence soared.
The confidence just kept growing as the wins kept mounting.
'As we won more, we got more confidence," said Pioneer Valley junior guard Ravynn Anielski.
The Panthers had plenty of wins this season, 17 against just eight losses. After going 0-14 in their farewell season in the CIF Southern Section's PAC 8 League last year, Pioneer Valley went 11-1 in its inaugural CIF Central Section campaign and earned a share of the league title with Nipomo.
The Ocean League is comprised mainly of smaller schools. However, Pioneer Valley beat league rival Atascadero twice this season after losing twice to the Greyhounds in PAC 8 League play last year.
"When it was the beginning of the season, we started coming together more," said freshman guard Chyanna Medina Tell. "We came together as a unit."
Bloodworth said, "This being year two (as the team's coach), it's still been a work in progress, still getting a feel for how to get the most out of the team."
The Panthers will play host to Liberty Bakersfield in the first-round of the CIF Central Section Division II playoffs. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. If the Panthers win, they play at top-seeded Bakersfield.
"The girls are excited," said Bloodworth. "This is all new to them."
The Panthers won two key close league games this year, and Blooodworth said that gave his group a big boost. Pioneer Valley beat Nipomo 51-48 at Nipomo in the first half of league play and edged third-place Orcutt Academy 55-52 at Pioneer Valley in the second.
"The girls had been in close games before, they knew what to do in those close games and that really helped," Bloodworth said.
The Panthers don't score all that much, 53 points a game. However, their pressure defense yields just 45 points an outing.
Anielski has done far more than her part to help the Panthers get all those wins this year.
She averages just over 19 points a game. Anielski also leads the team in steals, at 3.2 a game.
Anielski has hit some big 3's this year against tight defense. Several times, when a defender has been almost in her face, Anielski has simply retreated a step on the dribble to give herself more space then launched, and hit, a rainbow 3.
"I've improved some on that move this year," she said. "But I'd say what's improved the most is my defense." Anielski has been adept' at reading other teams' passers, jumping into the passing lanes and picking off passes.
Except for quarter breaks, halftime and timeouts, Anielski often rarely leaves the floor during games. She has said that a lot of time on the track this summer helped condition her to log all those minutes.
Medina Tell averages 11.6 points a game for the Panthers. Aalyah Moreno is next at 9.3. At 2. 9 a game, Moreno leads the team in assists.
The smallish Panthers have thrived despite not being a big rebounding team. Valeria Nol, at just under five rebounds a game, is the team's top rebounder.
A fast pace on offense and defense has suited the Panthers. "We just like running up and down the floor," said Anielski.
A lot of the Panthers' main contributors this season were on Pioneer Valley's three-win team last year. Returning seniors Letty Medina and Brianna Robles do not have big stats, but they have made some big plays at important times for Bloodworth's squad.
k"We're just executing better," said Anielski.
"I'm very excited for the playoffs."