By Richard Smith
West Valley Preps
When Valley girls basketball fans learned over the summer that Lauryn Satterwhite was joining fellow senior star Kiara Edwards — not to mention junior wunderkind Taylor Chavez — it looked like Valley Vista had formed a super team.
In reality, that team was only together for 10 games of a 19-6 regular season, as injuries limited Edwards and Satterwhite. But in a turbulent season for the Monsoon, basketball injuries are a small concern.
Rachel Matakas has coached for two decades and never been part of a team with this many ups and downs.
This season Valley Vista players have gone through the adoption of a baby brother, been removed from homes and disowned, a death in a family and parents returning to their childrens’ lives.
“Every kid on this team has had a trial or tribulation this year. It’s been like a storybook. We’ve had a lot of adversity,” Coach Matakas said. “When we started this team we said, ‘It’s God’s team.’ We say it every day that God brought us together. We all have our quirks. … Whether we win it or we don’t we’ve become better people. These kids now have visions and goals. They have a family here.”
Edwards is back at full strength from plantar fascitis, while Satterwhite said she hopes to return for the playoffs.
They’ve only played a handful of games together, even though growing up it appeared they would be a pair. They got to know each other as young basketball stars in the West Valley.
Then the Satterwhite family moved east and sent Lauryn and older brother Cameron (who now plays for Loyola of Chicago) to Gilbert Christian. Work moved her family back to the West Valley and Edwards was thrilled to hear she was back.
“It was like, finally. She was supposed to have been here. I definitely enjoy having her around for the last season of high school basketball. We go way back and there’s a really positive vibe,” Edwards said.
In her first three years, Edwards changed the trajectory of the program. Until Edwards arrived, Valley Vista was a haven for top high school guards but often lacked a post presence.
Coach Matakas said she has been example of toughness for younger players and added grit to the program.
“I think Kiara’s brought a lot of great attributes. She’s opened up the game for us from the inside out. She’s set a precedent here and left a legacy. She’s going to have 1,200 points and 1,000 rebounds. She has all the accolades. But more than that she brought a culture of hard work and more physical play,” Coach Matakas said.
Valley Vista reached the second round of the state tournament in her freshman year, the quarterfinals as a sophomore and semifinals last year. The Monsoon lost to eventual champion Chandler Hamilton.
Edwards said being a focal point from day one at Valley Vista helped her mature faster.
“I’m definitely more determined from losing in the final eight, then going to the final four and losing last year. Now there’s even more determination. I think were ready and this is going to be our year,” Edwards said.
Meanwhile, Satterwhite played her freshman and sophomore years at Gilbert Christian, leading the 2014 Division IV state champions in scoring. A torn ACL sidelined her last year.
Even though further injuries have limited her play this year, Satterwhite said she’s thrilled to be graduating with the people she grew up with.
“It kind of worked out because I grew up with everybody on this side of town. But I definitely loved it at Gilbert Christian. I thought it was a great school, but I thought it was time for a change too,” Satterwhite said.
If she can get healthy, Satterwhite and Edwards are hoping for four more games together and a state title. In one of its rare games at full strength, the Monsoon knocked off Hamilton 42-41 on a Chavez buzzer beater.
Injuries forced bench players to become starters and deep reserves into larger roles. That, plus everything this team has been through, has made the group stronger top to bottom, Coach Matakas and her seniors said.
“We have amazing pieces. Our bench has played more with me and L being out. They’ve had to step up and play different roles in practice,” Edwards said.
Edwards and Satterwhite will both play for well-known Division I schools next year.
Edwards said she chose San Diego State because it is close enough to home and she likes the school’s journalism and broadcasting programs.
Satterwhite said she looked at academics first and Northwestern was the clear choice. It is in Chicago close to her brother and she liked the coaching staff.
Northwestern also has a renowned program in broadcast journalism, her planned major.
Shortly after signing, the seniors were named to the final group under consideration for the McDonalds All American Game. Neither made the final cut, but both were honored to be considered.
“It’s a huge dream come true. When you’re younger, you think about these things but you never really think they’ll happen until they do,” Satterwhite said.
While what seemed like a title-or-bust season has been replaced by life lessons and a family feel, Valley Vista certainly wants to make the 6A semifinals Feb. 23.
That is because Madison Matakas gets in town Feb. 22. The coach’s brother has battled cancer for years and was recently given six months to live.
“That’s been one of his goals, to see these girls. He came out for the games last year. He’s been following these girls, watching from his Google account,” Matakas said.
HOOPS DUO: Monsoon senior stars hope for healthy playoff run
By Richard Smith