Pioneer Valley High School isn't exactly known as a girls basketball powerhouse.
As one of the area's newer high schools, the Panthers have yet to build up the rich tradition of success like St. Joseph or even Righetti have.
But make no mistake, the Panthers have encountered success on the hardwood. The first player to take the Panthers to those heights was the one-and-only Shnyia Tell.
Dillon's athleticism was so off the charts that coach Mike Regan couldn't resist putting the ball in his hands. Regan would employ Dillon as a 6-foot-3, 250-pound running quarterback at times and Dillon would run through, over or past would-be-tacklers.
Back in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, Tell helped lead a major turnaround at the school. In Tell's freshman season at PVHS, the Panthers went 2-10 in league games. By her junior season, the Panthers were 10-2. By her senior season, the Panthers were 11-1 and crowned league champions.
And Tell did this as a rarity. She wasn't particularly tall, quick or athletic. Tell was a ferocious competitor that out-hearted opponents, especially while working on the glass.
Tell, at 5-foot-10, averaged nearly 10 rebounds a game... for her entire four-year varsity career. She averaged a double-double in both her junior and senior seasons. She averaged 16 points, 13.3 rebounds as a senior with 2.6 steals per game. During her final two seasons at Pioneer Valley, Tell averaged about 15 points and 12 rebounds a game.
The Panthers went went 38-13 over her two final seasons after going 19-27 in her first two seasons. Tell was named the All-Area MVP as a senior in her 2013-14 season, one in which the Panthers won their first PAC 7 League title.
Tell is the 12th nominee for the Times' Player of the Decade contest.
“I don’t play basketball for the titles,” Tell said in 2014. “I don’t play it for the stats, or the awards, I play it for me. I don’t really care about anything else.”
The sweat. The dirt. The grime. The smells. Students from Santa Maria, Righetti and Pioneer Valley high schools welcomed back that assault on the senses this week.
Tell's play certainly had the self-motivated look. The post player never backed down from a rebound, recording nearly 850 in her high school career, often willing or (legally) pushing her way into prime rebounding position.
“Rebounding is mind of matter more than anything else," Tell said in 2014. "I feel like I’m a 6-foot-2 player; I’m going to play like I’m 6-2. I get big. I just push people and try to be as aggressive as I can be without fouling.”
Tell's offensive game wasn't always pretty, but it was effective. She shot over 50% from the field by working the offensive glass for easy put-backs or getting past bigger, slower defenders. She scored 1,015 points in her high school career.
Wilson's top high school accomplishment came in the spring of his senior year in 2013. Wilson ended Righetti High's 36-year drought at the state wrestling meet with a dominant run to the 152-pound title. Even with a proud wrestling tradition, state titles are rare in the Santa Maria Valley.
After high school, Tell considered trying to walk on to the women's team at Chico State, but ultimately focused on school, graduating with a degree in exercise science.
Athletic director Ashley Coelho said about 100 varsity athletes have been attending daily conditioning sessions on campus, with the Pirates on day 12 of their return-to-play plan on Tuesday.
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