Co-Captains Share Thoughts on Historic Basketball Season

The Lucerne Valley High School girls basketball team has had a historic season: After Friday’s win over Silver Valley, the Lady Mustangs are a perfect 8-0 in Agape League play, have won a record 18 games, and next Saturday the team is playing in the first round of the C.I.F. playoffs.
A year after the COVID-19 pandemic effectively canceled the 2020-21 basketball season, Lucerne Valley has played with a special intensity, drive and purpose that has set them apart from previous teams.
“We really didn’t have a ‘last’ year,” says Andrea Garcia, a senior forward and one of four team captains. “The best part of this season is the memories that we get from it, and how we came back stronger, from not having a year to showing our team can compete with other teams.”
Team captain Elissa Otwell, a 5’11” senior center, agreed that this season has been especially meaningful with many instructive lessons. “I’ve learned about working hard through difficult times and pushing through and working hard.”
Guard Kailey Quintero, one of two juniors who serve as captains, says her lessons from this year are both serious — and upbeat.  “I’ve learned to have fun, put your mind in the game, focus but also try to have fun while doing it,” she says, adding. “There’s a lot of inside jokes with have with each other.”
Jewell Moy, a junior point guard who transferred from 2,000-student Adelanto High School to small, rural Lucerne Valley, is glad she made the move. “It’s like a family,” she says. “I really appreciate it. It’s brought me a lot of joy and taught me a lot. I’m really glad I’m here.”
When Jewell arrived to Lucerne Valley she wasn’t sure she wanted to join the basketball team because her previous team experience didn’t always go smoothly, and she didn’t want to repeat that experience.
“I’m not a drama kind of person,” says Jewell, who is hoping to land a college scholarship followed by trying out with the WNBA after she graduates in 2023.  “When I came here I thought it was going to be the same, but I gave it a try.”
She’s glad she did. “Everybody here is like family.”
All captains agree that playing for Head Coach Brandon Barkley, who is closing in on 100 career wins, isn’t always easy on them, but his sometimes intense style helps them to grow as players.
“I think it just gives us motivation to keep going,” says Andrea, who is planning on becoming a nurse. “He’s very strict on what he wants and it makes it easier to know what to do and what he wants.” 
“I need him to yell at me to know what I did wrong,” says Kailey who has her eye set on attending an out-of-state college. “I think it’s good.”
The bottom line, Andrea says, is Coach Barkley’s lessons transcend sports.
“He really showed me how to stay strong and not give up on myself or my teammates when we have a tough game ahead of us,” says Andrea, who likes to paint and help her parents around the house. “We always keep our head up, and it’s fun for us to do.”
Former Mustang multi-sport standout Ruby Thompson serves as the team’s assistant coach.
The family vibe and winning spirit have led to many fond memories for the players. 
“Winning against Granite Hills was one of the best memories,” says Andrea. “It was an intense game, and very fun, and it was a big deal to beat Granite.” 
Jewell fondly remembers the game against Palmdale last November despite losing by several points.
“Our boys were cheering for us and they make this amazing sound,” she remembers. “We worked our tails off and we played hard. Even though we lost, it was still good because we got stronger.”
“I’m more comfortable this year because I’m a senior,” says Elissa, who will attend Victor Valley College before transferring to a four-year school to earn a degree in psychology. “I think this year we’re really close, like a basketball family. We have a lot of fun together.”
The Mustangs will face an opponent to be named on their home court on  Saturday, February 12 at 7 p.m. in their first round C.I.F. playoff game. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. 

Girls team pic
Team photo: Head Coach Brandon Barkley, left, who is closing in on 100 wins, and Assistant Coach Ruby Thompson, right, sit with members of Lucerne Valley High School’s historic 2021-22 girls basketball team.
Captains: Two seniors and two juniors lead the LVHS girls basketball team. From left, are team captains Elissa Otwell, Andrea Garcia, Kailey Quintero and Jewell Moy.