AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita Gross might be reserved, but he gets his message across to his players. “He sets the mood for us,” says junior Zaina Akeh. “He doesn’t talk loud, he just picks the right words and speaks to our hearts.” Among Gross’ messages: Wins are tough to come by in the Mission League, which features Chaminade of West Hills, Louisville of Woodland Hills, Alemany of Mission Hills and Harvard-Westlake of Studio City. “This league is incredibly open,” Gross said. “Any team can beat anyone on any night, and the team understands that.” “I get so nervous when we play league games,” junior guard Alexis Glassman said. “(Gross) tells us any day we come in soft, we can be beat.” If the Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks girls’ basketball team ever needs one of those dramatic, win-one-for-the-Gipper speeches from second-year coach Paul Gross, well, forget it. Gross isn’t the fiery type, but he can be counted on to have the Knights prepared for every game, capable of doing all the things required to compete, and putting forth the effort necessary as they look to defend their Mission League title. Notre Dame (11-7), ranked fourth by the Daily News, has inherited a confident yet quiet approach from Gross. “He is a calm coach and a calm person,” standout senior point guard C.J. Hill said. “We work and expect to win every game, but we know it might not always happen that way.” When the Knights need quick motivation, it usually comes from Hill, the team captain, who leads Notre Dame in scoring, averaging 18.1 points per game. “C.J. gets everyone pumped up,” Glassman said. “She’s the one that everyone looks to when we are in trouble.” It’s a role Hill embraces. “I feel I am the leader of this team,” she said. “They look up to me, and I look up to them.” Said Gross: “C.J. has really stepped up for us. She is key to this team.” The Knights are inspired by Hill’s work ethic. She has advanced as a player since averaging 10 points per game as a junior, crediting a travel team coached by former Cleveland of Reseda boys’ coach Andre Chevalier, on which she, Glassman and Akeh played. “We played teams from Atlanta to Tennessee,” Hill said. “Those girls are no joke, and it really made us work harder and become more aggressive.” Notre Dame also draws inspiration from Akeh, a junior who missed most of last season with a digestive disorder. She spent part of last summer in the hospital. “My teammates were great,” Akeh said. “They would come and visit me in the hospital, bring me cards and balloons. They really helped my recovery.” The 6-foot-1 center is averaging 7.9 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, and she sets the tempo for Notre Dame’s aggressive play. “It is so big to have her back,” said Glassman, who is averaging 14.2 points. “She dives for loose balls and does a lot of dirty work. Sometimes when I turn to get back on defense, I notice she somehow has the ball. I ask myself, ‘How did she do that?’ ” The Knights’ chemistry is critical; the players feed off of each other’s encouragement. “If one of us is not shooting well and comes to the bench, we tell them to keep shooting – we never get on each other,” Glassman said. “I can’t tell you how great it is to be on a team like this.” Justin Frank, (818) 713-3607 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
Posted on December 29, 2019