It didn’t take long this season for Bailey Henington to show how talented she is on the basketball court.
Maggie Beck / Union Democrat. Bret Harte's Kelsey Switzer (3) and Sonora Wildcat Bailey Henington are The Union Democrat 2014 Girls Hoops All-Area Co-MVPs.
In her third game, and first as a starter, Henington caught fire in the team’s 56-45 victory over Bret Harte at the 40th annual Sonora Girls Basketball Tournament in December.
Although Henington missed a big chunk of preseason practices while still playing for Sonora’s record-setting volleyball team, the versatile 5-foot-3 point guard scored a jaw-dropping, and career-high, 37 points at Bud Castle Gym.
“She was beating them no matter how they guarded her,” said Sonora head coach Amy Santos. “It was just one of those nights where she was on, and nobody could stop her.”
That total is the most points a Wildcat has recorded in a single game since Jessica Peterson dropped 34 in a 71-52 win over then-Valley Oak League foe Tracy in 2002.
Santos believes it may be a Sonora single-game record.
“I think that’s a Sonora High record going back to Jessica Peterson,” Santos said. “But I’m not positive on that.”
Record or not, Henington excelled in her first start of the season.
The junior drained 5 of 8 shots from beyond the arc and was nearly perfect from 2-point range, hitting 10 of 11 attempts. She also added two free throws and finished with an efficient 78 percent shooting from the field.
“I would never imagine that would have happened,” Henington said. “Honestly, I didn’t even realize how many I scored until coach told me. It was an honor to score that many. It’s probably my best game I ever played.
“It was a team effort. We really worked the ball a lot. I remember that game like it was yesterday. We threw really hard crisp passes. We were really good at executing the offense.”
And it wasn’t just against Bret Harte that Henington flashed brilliance.
In wins over Summerville and Calaveras, she tallied 16 and 17 points, respectively, which were both game-highs.
“I only saw Sonora’s guard once,” said Bears head coach Dave Woods of Henington. “But she’s a tremendous athlete. I would say she’s one of the top players as far as offense and defense all the way around. She’s a really good player.”
And, again, it just wasn’t against area teams that Henington overpowered. Even in the grueling VOL, she delivered. League coaches recognized her outstanding efforts and named her an All-VOL First Team performer.
In all, Henington averaged 17 points, five steals and three assists per appearance.
“The Bret Harte game was definitely the highlight for her,” Santos said. “She was just so consistent. She averaged 17 points a game. Her scoring was pretty consistent throughout the year. She’s just a good player.”
For Bailey Henington’s dynamic scoring and flair, the junior point guard is The Union Democrat’s 2013-14 Co-Most Valuable Player.
“I love the confidence she’s getting with the ball,” Santos said. “Her freshman year, she was obviously a little more timid. You saw that grow. You just continue to see that grow. She leads the team a little more vocally. She’s always been somebody who can score from anywhere. She’s definitely shown growth. She puts in the time. She definitely does all the extra stuff that she can and it shows.”
Despite Henington’s phenomenal year, she insisted that individual statistics don’t mean much if the team doesn’t have success. The Wildcats finished the season with an overall 16-10 record and 7-7 in VOL play.
Sonora missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade with the new format change, and that is something the junior hopes to turn around next season as the Wildcats shift into a new league.
“It was kind of a rough season,” Henington said. “Every game was a battle. We worked so hard every game. We never gave up and we pushed forward every time. I was very, very disappointed we didn’t reach our goal, especially because we worked really hard to get where we were. But there’s no doubt in my mind, that we’ll make it to playoffs next year.”
With two seniors graduating, Maria Chacon and Shea Stead, Sonora will return a talented and experienced roster.
Throw in a couple new faces into the mix from a junior varsity team that went 23-1 during the entire 2013-14 year, and the Wildcats may be an early favorite to win the MLL championship in their debut season.
“My expectations are set pretty high,” Henington said. “Hopefully, we can win the MLL. I feel like if we set our minds to it and focus really hard — we can.”