If there was one thing learned about the Fresno City College women’s basketball program this season, it’s how coach Brian Tessler and the Rams still can find success despite an injury-riddled campaign.
It begins with finding a point guard in which to trust, even if that means turning to Plan B.
Tessler had to recalibrate and find someone else to run the floor after Julia Cuellar was lost to an ACL injury five games into the season.
Enter 5-foot-7 freshman Mikayla Mabie.
Mabie, who prepped at Central Valley High in Ceres, helped the Rams to a 23-8 record and a berth in the NorCal Regional. Fresno City is the seventh seed and will host No. 10 American River (18-10) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Her overall season numbers are solid enough, with Mabie averaging 9.3 points and a state second-best 7.6 assists per game. But she was even better in Central Valley Conference play, where she averaged 10.8 points and a league-best 8.5 assists.
It was a big void to fill. In my opinion she became the best point guard in the league without any question.
Fresno City College coach Brian Tessler on freshman Mikayla Mabie, who went from backup to starter while helping the Rams reach the NorCal playoffs
Mabie and fellow freshman Madissen Harp (9.6 points, 8.4 rebounds) and sophomore Heaven Holmes (14.9 points) all made the All-CVC first team for the Rams.
“Mikyala came in and took over,” said Tessler, also one win shy of 500 for his career. “It was, ‘Hey you’re in.’ From that point on, it was an understanding: ‘You’re our point guard. You got to get us through this.’
“It was a big void to fill. In my opinion she became the best point guard in the league without any question.”
Losing a teammate was tough, but Mabie was ready for the challenge. She relished the opportunity to keep the Rams afloat.
The Rams would reach the point where they were dressing only nine players after Isabella Naranjo and Bobbie Henry also went down with ACL injuries.
“At first I knew it was going to be difficult,” Mabie said. “Big (credit for) my season goes to Julia because she was literally the voice inside my head, like if I made a mistake and come to the bench she would tell me what to do.”
When Cuellar was hurt in a Nov. 19 game versus City College of San Francisco, she was averaging 8.6 points per game on nearly 52 percent shooting. The sophomore and ex-Bullard standout decided to embrace her supporting role from the sideline.
“(Mabie) had to keep her head in the game.” Cuellar said. “As a point guard, she controls the tempo … controls the pace in everything. It’s important she stays mentally in the game. I try helping her with things on the sideline.”
Mabie admitted there was pressure “because coach has high expectations of me” but along with the rest of the Rams carries confidence into the playoffs.
“Preseason was a struggle for us because we were going through all these injuries,” she said. “We just really came together as a group and that’s where I was finding my placement that I am a point guard and do need to handle the floor.”
NorCal women’s regional
NO. 10 AMERICAN RIVER AT NO. 7 FRESNO CITY
▪ Friday: 7 p.m. at campus gym
▪ Records: Fresno City 23-8, 10-2 (second) Central Valley Conference; American River 18-10, 9-5 (fourth) Big 8