The San Juan High School girls basketball team hasn’t experienced a lot of stability at the coaching position in the last three seasons. When Laura Stearns took the reigns in 2018-19, she was the third different head coach in as many years.
In that time period, the Lady Broncos went 35-31 and only advanced past the first round of the state tournament once, in 2016-17.
But that changes this year as Stearns returns for her second campaign. She said her first head coaching stint was a huge learning curve and she’s better prepared this year to help the team improve.
The team only lost one player to graduation in 2018-19 (Bodell Nielson), and six returning seniors in 2019-20 ensure that there will be a good deal of familiarity between Stearns and her players.
She said she likes what she sees from the team so far as they prepare for first game of the season December 5 at Providence Hall.
“Lots of teamwork, ball movement, passing, and good shots,” she detailed. She expressed that she’s most excited by how the girls are working together as a team.
Stearns said she expects much of the Lady Bronco seniors this season. She wants Madi Palmer, Tasiah Little, and Syannah Ketchum to “step up and knock down a three when we need it.”
Palmer hit 12 threes a year ago and was the second-highest scorer for the Lady Broncos with a 9.23 points-per-game (PPG) average. Little had 14 treys and 7.41 PPG; Ketchum hit 16 threes and scored 2.77 PPG.
Stearns expects 2018-19 leading scorer Delaney Palmer to pick up where she left off. She scored 320 points for the Lady Broncos for a 14.55 PPG average .
She said it has been encouraging to see an increased confidence and comfort in shooting the ball from Brittany Grover, who was reluctant to shoot in 2018-19. Stearns said she hopes Grover will put points on the board regularly for San Juan this year.
Junior Sadie Brown will start for the first time in her career this season and Stearns is expecting her to be a big help at forward.
“[Brown] is confident in her ability to play, and I just see lots of good things with her,” Stearns said.
Stearns expects San Juan to be strong in pushing the ball up the court quickly, in endurance, in speed, and in playing as a team.
She said they’ll have to work on their inside game to compensate for a lack of height. But she also said she would like to help the Lady Broncos cultivate a strong outside game as well.
Stearns said in creating the 2019-20 schedule she eliminated as many games against weaker opponents as she could. “I’m excited to play some 4A teams this year because it will be better competition to help prepare us for our region games,” she explained.
Stearns said her main goal this season is to create an environment where the girls enjoy playing basketball.
“Obviously I want to win games too,” she explained, “but we just need to have an environment where it’s positive for our girls, where they can improve, where they don’t have to worry, and they can just go out and play basketball.
“We would love community support at our games,” Stearns said, “specifically for the seniors who have put a lot of work and dedication into the sport. It’s always nice to see a crowd in the stands.”
Lady Bronco fans won’t have a lot of opportunity to do so. There are only five home games on the 2019-20 schedule.
San Juan opens the year in Herriman, UT against Providence Hall on Thursday, December 5. They head to Cedar City to take on Canyon View on December 7.
They visit Monticello for a rivalry matchup with the Lady Buckaroos on December 10. They won’t play at home until January 16 when Emery comes to Blanding.