SUNNYSIDE Senior Ashlee Maldonado became Sunnyside High School’s all-time leading basketball scorer as she eclipsed the 1,405 mark, set by her older sister Emilee two years ago, during a conference home game victory over Davis 73-37 on Saturday night.
“It feels great actually. I mentioned to my teammates that I couldn’t have done it without them. I’m so excited and couldn’t be happier,” Maldonado exclaimed.
“I play other sports as well, but I really thought this was always my sport and I was always practicing… I was always basketball… I just love it.”
With about two-minutes remaining in the third quarter, Maldonado connected on a three-point shot that ripped through the net for her 1,406th point and brought the Grizzly Den faithful to their feet.
“I couldn’t be happier for her. She deserves every accolade and has a great work ethic,” Head Coach Rick Puente said.
“I don’t think I tell her enough what a tremendous asset she is to the team. It’s not just her scoring but all the little things she does,” Puente said.
“Ashlee has had a really good career here at Sunnyside High School, and we’re not done, but at the same time she’s got a really bright future ahead of her.”
The athletic record was also a prestigious academic honor. For the first time in the school’s history, their ASB Class President, who also maintains a 3.8 grade point average is now the school’s most prolific student athlete.
“This is such a great feeling and really a blessing. Growing up, this was my dream I wanted to achieve. Academically, and with my scholarship now, I can continue to keep on playing basketball. It’s what I love to do, and I’m just super excited,” Maldonado stated.
The crowd roared with cheerful pride for the Santa Clara University and Division I-bound Maldonado. The game was paused for her to enjoy and share in the accomplishment with everyone in the stands.
Her uncle held up an iPhone as Emilee was plugged into the moment via FaceTime.
“When I was in the middle of the court, my uncle held up the phone, and I waved to her. She was really excited for me,” Maldonado expressed.
The distinguished SHS student athlete revealed that she has a passion for math that rivals her basketball goals, along with the distinct possibility of studying engineering in college. Maldonado will be able to pursue her academic interests both in the classroom and on the court.
Following the brief game break at the end of the third, the Lady Grizzlies having a 67-29 lead, Coach Puente took Maldonado out of the game.
“Ashlee is a tremendous young lady. She’s always been a student leader and stand-out athlete. Ashlee’s dedication for her studies and leadership activities at school has translated to success in both the classroom and on the court,”
— SHS Principal Ryan Maxwell
She finished the quarter with 13 of her game high 27 points.
The Lady Griz came out with a defensive intensity to trap the ball at every opportunity.
Davis struggled to beat the full court press, which caused the Pirates to turn the ball over as SHS roared out to a 24-7 first-quarter lead over the Pirates.
Post guard Kameran Rodriguez poured in 10 points, while Maldonado added 9. The inside and outside combination of Rodriguez and Maldonado was too much for DHS to handle.
“Lately, we haven’t had really anyone attacking the boards, and I knew it was something we really needed to work on. So, I just took the role of ‘I’m going to step up and get some rebounds’,” Rodriguez explained.
“I knew Davis was going to spread themselves out really wide, and the inside was going to be open,” she said.
The Lady Grizzlies did not let up in the second quarter. They added to the Pirates’ 17-point opening quarter deficit. During the next eight minutes, they were up 24 at halftime and led 45-21.
Rodriguez tipped in 9 points, while Maldonado added 5 to maintain the team’s aggressive mentality.
SHS played one of their best first halves of the season at both ends of the court.
“I am pretty pleased with their efforts tonight. They’re playing great basketball right now. That’s what you want to be doing at the end of the year… playing your best basketball. and I think they are,” Puente acknowledged. “The girls had a great first half. Probably one of our best first halves we’ve had this season.”
As Maldonado walked off the gym floor with the scoring record milestone in hand, the SHS senior paused for a moment and flashed a reminiscent smile that was shaped from growing up in the gym with her family — strengthened by her determined passion to excel both on and off the court.
“Keep working hard and don’t give up, because it definitely pays off!”