Kylie Rodriguez: A force on the court for the Lady Raiders
By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
Down by three points in the gym of it’s biggest rival, the Sonora basketball team knew it needed to make an adjustment if it was going to maintain its second place standing in the Freeway League.
That adjustment was feeding the team’s senior center in the post, a move that led to a dominant 17-point effort from Kylie and a 10-point win over La Habra last Friday.
But Kylie’s contributions don’t stop there. After a tough home loss to Troy, the senior has put up consecutive double-doubles in two important road games against Sunny Hills and La Habra as the Lady Raiders now have a stronghold behind Troy in the league standings.
“We put in a lot of hard work in practice,” she said. “I’ve been practicing for about an hour and a half on post moves each practice and we’ve been doing drills to get the ball inside more, so it’s been a team effort.”
Those drills came into play against La Habra last Friday. After the Lady Highlanders limited her to just two points in the first half, she dominated the second half, putting up 17 points as Sonora outscored its rival 27-14.
Kylie finished that game with 10 rebounds.
“The first half, I just felt like I wasn’t really there,” she said. “Rebounding wise it was decent, but it wasn’t my best. Once we talked at halftime, my teammates encouraged me and told me that if I posted up, they would keep getting me the ball. Once I got that first basket in the second half, I knew this was my game, I was going to take it.”
The performance was exactly what Sonora Head Coach Melissa Barajas was hoping to see, saying that she wanted her senior center to utilize the skills she developed in practice.
“When she goes strong she’s so tough to guard for post players because she’s so athletic,” Barajas said. “She struggled in the first half, but she kept at it, she didn’t give up and we were so proud of her, she was very successful in the second half.”
While Kylie has provided an important inside presence, she also credits the other seniors, Margo Campos and Avalon James, with their contributions as the trio continues to lead the team down the stretch.
Ultimately, for a team that is even in terms of class representation, the main goal for all three is to keep the team together and make sure everyone stays involved.
“Margo is a really good captain, she talks a lot, so I’m really happy to have her as one of my partners,” Kylie said. “Avalon works her butt off on defense and that’s a plus, she knows how to shut people down. In practice we want everyone to give their all and the three of us work really well together, I think our coaches did a great job in making that choice.”
While Kylie plays tough on the basketball court, her hobbies outside of the gym lead a bit to the contrary.
A senior, Kylie’s favorite subjects in school include English and Agricultural Economics because she loves to work with animals.
“I’ve had lambs and turkeys that I’ve sold in the past and not a lot of students can say that,” she said “I enjoy it a lot.”
Even more so, when she has free time, Kylie also enjoys baking and says she’ll bring cookies and other treats for her teammates at practices.
But the senior also enjoys having free time to either hang out with friends or stay in and watch a little television.
“I’m a typical teenager,” she said. “Sometimes I just like to turn on the TV and have something to eat and I’m set.”
However, opponents had better not let that ‘typical teenager’ tag fool them, because on the court, Kylie is as tough as they come and she has a great support system to help keep it that way.
“My [older] sister pushes me, she goes to a Division 1 school, so she’s always giving me advice on what to do if I want to get to the next level,” she said. “My parents are always getting on me about school, which is good and I have a good group of friends who encourage me to do my best.”
That support system has been crucial to Kylie’s success, which includes a handful of double-double performances and a post game that the rest of the league should be watching out for.
While Kylie has been a huge factor for her team so far, Barajas knows that if these types of games continue for her senior center, the team’s chances of winning are greater.
“Even when she’s not scoring, her rebounding and defensive presence are huge,” Barajas said. “It’s tough to score against her, she’s long, athletic and has great timing. She’s averaging over 10 rebounds per game and defensively, if we get beat, she’s there to protect the basket.”