Hard work pays off for Maldonado

PRACTICE IS GYM TIME — “I just always want to get better, and it all starts in the gym,” conveys Sunnyside High School senior Ashlee Maldonado, who will play for the Santa Clara Broncos next season.

SUNNYSIDE — The Lady Griz, Big 9 Conference and District champions went undefeated in league, won three loser-out games and were the first team in the school’s history to accomplish those achievements — which began with hard work and the challenge to be better.

It was exemplified by senior Ashlee Maldonado.

“I just always want to get better, and it all starts in the gym. Practicing, working on different parts of my game and finding ways to improve my skills, keeps me going. I pretty much live in the gym,” Maldonado, who will be taking her game to the collegiate level for the Santa Clara Broncos next season, said.

The ASB Class President and standout guard, who wore No. 12, bears down her ability to excel in academics as she does with her passion for basketball. “I always give it my best — to be the best that I can be!”

Following their dramatic 1-point loss in the closing seconds of their 53-52 game against the No.1 seeded Woodinville Falcons in the WIAA 4A Hardwood Classic on Feb. 27 at the Tacoma Dome, the Lady Grizzlies showed why they deserved to be there.

“That last second loss was a bummer for us,” Maldonado candidly expressed.

“The process that we went through was awesome. In my senior year to go out strong and give it our best effort the whole way… I felt was really special.”

Showcasing her all-around team play on the big stage, Maldonado was right at home as she poured in 32 points and was on the floor for every minute of game.

“In the dome, there’s a lot more noise with everything going on. I knew that wouldn’t distract me at all. I’ve been in that situation before,” Maldonado calmly acknowledged. “I think we all just kind of stepped onto the floor, put all that aside and played hard, and gave it our all.”

One of the assistant coaches from Santa Clara made the trip to Tacoma to see her play.

“It was pretty cool, knowing that’s the college I’ll be going to and for the support in watching me play. Throughout the week, I just kind of focused on the game and my teammates.”

The four seniors, who were able to share in the experience of playing at the tournament as sophomores, wanted to come out strong this year and make a statement for all to see, she said.

“I know we all have bright futures for ourselves and knowing what’s ahead of us is going to be great. Our high school careers are over, but we still got more to go,” enthusiastically voiced Maldonado.

While the basketball season may be over for most student athletes, the accomplished guard is headed back to the gym to prepare for her upcoming NCAA Division I season.

She seeks to be ready for a more physical and faster pace game at the next level. Maldonado has watched the team practice during her campus visit and understands what is expected of her when she joins the Broncos this summer.

“Working on my shooting, a mid-range shot and being a knockdown shooter — knowing that my shot is going down every time I shoot it,” Maldonado coolly stated.

“The girls at the collegiate level are much taller. So, I know that driving to the hole is not always going to be there. I need to keep improving!”

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