Grossmont Girls’ basketball takes league for the first time in a decade

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Not every season leads down glory road and not every championship game has a happy ending, but for the girls of Grossmont’s Lady Foothillers, Friday’s match against second-seed Steele Canyon was exactly that, the golden climax of their Cinderella story, taking the game, 45-35.

“This is has been an exceptional season,” said Foothillers head coach Grace Campbell. “When I took over the program they were 2-22. This is my third year coaching as head coach and we’re 21-5.”

Not every season leads down glory road and not every championship game has a happy ending, but for the girls of Grossmont’s Lady Foothillers, Friday’s match against second-seed Steele Canyon was exactly that, the golden climax of their Cinderella story, taking the game, 45-35.

“This is has been an exceptional season,” said Foothillers head coach Grace Campbell. “When I took over the program they were 2-22. This is my third year coaching as head coach and we’re 21-5.”

Claiming their tenth consecutive win and the Grossmont Valley League title, the Foothillers of East County’s oldest high school have come a long way in a short time.

“It feels unreal,” said senior Symone Griffith. “We built this program up so much since four years ago. We didn’t win any league games and now we’re winning championships. It’s amazing how much different the program is and the attitudes of the girls.”

Grossmont has no lack of team spirit. Collectively celebrating each point with the Cam Newton “dab,” the Lady Foothillers on the sidelines had just as much energy as those battling for ground on Steele Canyon’s court. Impervious to the surrounding commotion, Campbell maintained a sharp focus amid the building pressure of the championship game. 

Beating Steele Canyon was not easy. The Cougar’s came out screaming, with standouts like seniors Ashely Tavizon and Jules Loibl exercising sure footwork and clean shooting. The third quarter, especially, was tense as Steele Canyon pulled up alongside Grossmont on the scoreboard with just a three-point difference and closing. Campbell could be heard across the court shouting at the Foothillers, “You have to want this,” as they scrambled to pull their offense together again.

But the undeniable talents of Steele Canyon’s senior players were ultimately no match against Grossmont’s synergistic squad. Regaining their footing, the Foothillers bounced back in the fourth quarter.

“Most coaches would have called a timeout,” said Campbell. “I don’t do that. My motto is that you work it out. You fight through it. You compose yourself, your teammates and you fight through it as a team.”

The win for Grossmont is their first league championship in ten years and the season spent on top of the standings is the first in a decade as well. Campbell said unity has made the difference. 

“This team this year, we’re very close,” she said. “They’re very loyal to each other and we’re a team. That’s what it is. This is a team.”

In the three years since Campbell has been head coach at Grossmont, Campbell said, helping the girls buy into the program and into her coaching style have been crucial to making changes on the squad. 

“She acts like she’s really tough but she’s a softie,” said freshman Athena Sotelo of Campbell. “She’ll yell at you but she’s a sweetie.”

Sotelo represents the new wave of Foothillers who will be filling empty sneakers next season. 

“Earning my spot and proving myself has been the hardest part of the season,” said Sotelo, who certainly proved herself on Friday with her persistent drive against the Cougar defense.

Shrieking victoriously, the Foothillers left Steele Canyon’s gym with heads high.

“It’s just great to be on a team like this,” said Griffith. “This team made me fall in love with the game.”

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