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Half Moon Bay High School varsity girls basketball coach Antonio Veloso, second from right, is readying his charges for a run at the Peninsula Athletic League title this season. They begin with the annual alumni game tonight. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

On a Friday night at the Cabrillo Unified School District Event Center, nearly a dozen members of the Half Moon Bay High School girls varsity basketball team studied film from their scrimmage the night before with Pinewood. 

As they watched, head coach Antonio Veloso highlighted key plays, both the makes and misses from the team. Eight of his charges are either juniors or freshmen; there are two sophomores and one senior. While some of the new players have gone through the local system, getting up to speed with the high school game takes some getting used to. For example, Veloso explained that watching game film and taking constructive feedback is a new experience for some of his players. 

“It’s a juggling act,” Veloso explained. “You have to teach them and be disciplined with them, but I think they’re still young and may take it personally. But they can’t take it personally.”

The Cougars face stiff competition early on before the league season, starting with Menlo-Atherton on Saturday. The Bears were one game away from the state tournament last year.

They’ll also play St. Joseph Alameda, which came in at No. 5 in NorCal Preps rankings, before the league competition begins. Last year, the Cougars went 12-11 overall and 8-4 in league play. 

One thing is clear though: The team wants to make a run at the Peninsula Athletic League title.

At the team’s training camp in Sonora over the summer, the team agreed that would be the mission this season. Veloso said the freshman class could surprise some people, and sophomore Abby Kennedy, who earned all-PAL recognition last season, is also returning. 

In addition, the chemistry between sisters Bella and Allie Dioli should be on full display. While Allie, a freshman, may put up more points than Bella, it’s her older sibling who tends to do all the little things throughout the game that make a difference. The senior forward said her strengths are rebounding and hitting the open three. 

“Numberswise, we’re all going to be pretty universal, so I think it’ll be evenly distributed,” Bella said. 

The Cougars have an alumni event today at 5:30 p.m., followed by their first big test in nonconference play against Menlo-Atherton at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Both games are at the Event Center, 530 Kelly Ave.

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