Past, present and future Cougars filed into the new gym last week for a little pre-turkey day ritual. The Half Moon Bay High School Alumni Basketball games were underway. 

The girls were up first with players from the past thundering down the court as they faced off against this year’s Cougar crop. At the end of the day, the alums would claim the “W” with a final score of 54-45. 

Deanna Tower, Diana Cariaja and Caitlen Vreeburg combined to form the core of the alumnae team. 

All three have moved past the hardwood and into roles where they interface with kids from the community. 

Tower works as the assistant principal at Half Moon Bay High School. 

Vreeburg works as a program director with the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastside. Cariaja works with the younger set as a basketball coach. All three women viewed the game as a way to bridge the gap between past and present players. 

“It’s just a lot of fun seeing your old friends and playing. We have a good time,” said Vreeburg. “The whole thing is more about mentoring, about trying to create relationships with the high school players.” 

“A lot of the alumni have coached the younger girls, like in CYO, so it’s really fun to watch them and see their progression over the years,” added Tower. “We’re rooting for them too.” 

While Vreeburg and Tower joked about being among the oldest on the alumnae team, Cunha Intermediate School student Alli Dioli was one of the youngest. When the alumnae team fell short by a few players, the eighth-grader suited up to assist. 

“Playing in this game pushed me to want to work harder,” Dioli said. “Whoever I’m playing with, I always try to control the court and to not act tentative.” 

The camaraderie between the players was evident. It was clear that Half Moon Bay High School girls varsity coach Antonio Veloso considered the game a success.  

“What we saw tonight at the alumni game is exactly what we want,” he said. “We want the players to walk off the floor and remember each other. It’s that feeling of bringing it all back together. That’s the eventual goal.” 

At the conclusion of the game, Veloso took a moment to reflect on the start of the season. He noted that the varsity team is young. 

The 11 players on the roster have a combined five years of varsity playing experience. Mailie Bowers has two years while Abby Urban, Bella Dioli and Genevieve Belmonte have one year each. 

While Veloso recognizes that this year’s team has talent, he also acknowledges that high hopes are based on past performance as well as the overall strength of the girls basketball program. Will the team live up to the expectations? 

“It’s a different year and it’s a different story,” he said. “Now, we look at this group and see what they can accomplish.

“We need to play hard. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, you just compete, compete, compete,” he continued. 

“If they understand the level of competition that we want them to get to, that’s all they need to do.”

The girls were set to square up against Summit Shasta Prep on Tuesday, after newspaper print deadline. 


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