With Division I talent on the court at all times, it’s easy to think that this St. Joseph's basketball team is undefeated in league play because they just have better players but if you ask first-year head coach Kristina Santiago, it’s much more than that.
“I think the most special part about this team is how together they are,” Santiago said. “There is no selfishness at all, which is incredible for the amount of talent we have.”
Even for the ESPN 31st ranked player in the 2024 class, junior Avary Cain, the idea of playing selfless rather selfish is nothing new.
“Honestly, I think we really feed off each other's energy and we work so hard on and off the court and it makes it pretty easy for sure,” Cain said honestly.
Despite the regular season success of an undefeated league record and bringing back much of the same talent, the lingering effects of an early playoff loss last year to Windward is something that has motivated this year’s team to be even better.
“It really stung the way we lost last year when we went out, but I think we just have a whole new mindset of thinking we're going to be way better than we came in last year,” Cain stated.
In the preseason, the team intentionally faced tough competition in the Central Valley, Nevada and Arizona to help prepare for the state-caliber teams they’ll face in the playoffs.
However, many of their Mountain League games have been lopsided and part of the struggle for teams that win by wide margins is to remain focused and diligent on the skills and mentality required to beat the best. However, for Coach Santiago and her team, there has never been a game where the team has lost focus on the bigger picture.
“Our team plays through and through the whole game,” Santiago stated. “They play with energy. A lot of that is because we know the bigger picture. We know what we're going after this year and we know we can't take plays off even if it is in league.”
The Knights are now 23-3 overall and 12-0 in league play. The Knights also have a high caliber player in senior Candace Kpetikou, who is committed to Washington State University, that plays integral role inside for St. Joseph.