INDEPENDENCE — Last week, junior Elizabeth Chavez, of Central, was named to the first team of the All-League Mid-Willamette Conference team; but that’s hardly the only reason why she was chosen as the Itemizer-Observer’s 2018 girls basketball Player of the Year.
Chavez has been a starting player on the Panthers team since her freshman year of high school, and each year, she’s gotten better.
Despite her growth, Chavez can still point out what it is she wants to improve upon for next year, her senior year.
“I was talking with coach the other day, and we talked about how my ratio from assist to turnovers was pretty much a 2:1 ratio and then starting league, every assist that I had, it was, like, two turnovers, and I was realizing that, too so, it was kinda frustrating; now that, like, playoffs are starting, I wanna focus in on that more, taking care of the ball, knowing what to do with the ball, and taking leadership on the court, being a team captain.”
Chavez has been playing basketball since the third grade. In addition to basketball, she plays volleyball in the fall and runs track in the spring. She said she isn’t one to just sit around and be lazy; she likes to be active.
Her go-go-go attitude is obvious on the court, where she’s quick, attentive and a team player. Season-wide, Chavez has had 12.5 points per game, four rebounds, 2.7 steals, and 3.4 assists.
When faced with a loss, of which there have only been four so far this season, Chavez says it can be hard to move past that.
But “knowing that we’re capable to play, and we still have room to do good and beat those teams,” is how they deal with the added pressure, she said. “Our coaches support us and they know how well we can play. Come in positive, rather than going in from our last game that we lost.”
With basketball quickly wrapping up, Chavez is looking forward to next season, where she hopes to be team captain, a position she was chosen for this year and the year prior.
“Picking a captain, it’s not just your ability out on the court,” coach Julie McDonald said. “It’s somebody that I want the girls to look up to and see the work ethic in practice; it’s not about being the best shooter or player, it’s for them to see how you go out and work and play hard.”
The season isn’t over quiet yet, but Chavez already has numerous goals for herself for next year; one of them is about keeping a good head space, and “being positive on the court, because I think I’m harder on myself than anyone else is,” she said, “and when I miss a shot, my coaches can tell, too, that I let it affect me a lot, so I wanna work on moving past those errors, and stay focused on what’s to come during the game rather than being upset and let it affect me.”
Looking back on the season, Chavez is proud of how the Panthers have done.
“Overall, as a team, we’ve had a really good season,” she said. “At the beginning, we started out really strong, we worked really good as a team, and then as the season progressed we kinda like, I dunno, got down on ourselves a little bit more and kinda like dwelled on our past mistakes during the game and let it catch up to us.”
Being coached by McDonald has been a highlight for Chavez’s basketball career at Central.
“She’s really supportive of us; you can tell she enjoys being out on the court with us,” she said. “The chemistry that we have, the players and the coach, I think is really good and it shows out on the court cause we have her support, no matter what. When it’s time to take things seriously, she will, but there are also times she shows where, like, she can have fun with us.”
Being chosen as the 2018 Player of the Year was a surprise for her.
“It’s pretty cool; it’s exciting,” she said, smiling.
Friday the Panthers hosted their first playoff game against Hillsboro. In the week leading up to that game, Chavez could feel the shift in atmosphere.
“There’s lots of pressure, I feel like, being able to host a playoff game,” she said. “We’re really excited for it. As long as we stay focused and play up to how we should play up to, we should pull off a win.” Which they did, 34-31, against the Spartans.