Meet Your 2021-2022 Starting 5: Girls Varsity Basketball


Marley Gandee, Reporter

Number 10, Madison “Madie” Eaton, is a senior. She plays post, and has been since 6th grade. Madie said, “I started playing because I always wanted to do sports, so when my school started a basketball program, I took the opportunity.” Madie loves playing basketball because of the team’s chemistry, and how many amazing moments there are together. She also loves the energy, the aggression, the joy of the moment. She also said, “The most important part of getting where I am was working hard and being coachable, also including going to practice every day and giving it all I got in the games.” She is not going to play in college, but she still really loves the game. She is inspired by Alyssa Brown, a Sahuaro graduate from last year who went on to play D1 basketball at UNLV. Her other hobby is playing club volleyball.

Sophomore point guard number 30, Cassandra “Cassie” Coolidge, has been playing varsity for Sahuaro since her freshman year. She began playing overall when she was 8-years-old.  From the moment she picked up the ball, it was instant joy, and from then on it was her thing. “For me, I look up to certain NBA players, or my mom a lot.” She loves playing because of the feeling of people cheering you on, and for her, getting an assist, or score is the great feeling in the world. She currently plays for APA club basketball, along with Nellie. When asked about what her other hobbies were she said, “Sleeping and eating, my top two right there. Cassie wants to play in college, but she is undecided where she wants to play. To get her to where she is, she practiced hard, had some great coaching staff, and never gave up.


Isabelle “Izzy” Saldivar-Hale, number 34, is a senior. She plays all different positions, but her favorite is shooting guard. Izzy has been playing since the 8th grade when she made the decision to quit soccer because she was bored. She still wanted to say active, so she tried basketball. She fell in love with the sport, and kept playing. She said, “It gives me an escape from reality.” She also loves the camaraderie of the team, and how well they get along. Last year, she played club with Dizzy Squad, but has played on a lot of different clubs. “I’ve been playing here for 4 years so you have an idea of everything that happens in those four years and you know everyone, like you see how they play and it motivates you to move up to varsity.” Her main inspiration is Diana Turasi, but the UofA girls also helped her get into the sport more, especially after going to the university’s camps. She is currently looking into playing basketball at the colleges she was accepted to.  Outside of basketball, her main hobbies are hanging out with friends, working out, playing with her dogs and reading.

Nashelle “Nelly” Ponds, number 32, is a junior and has been on varsity since her freshman year. Nelly plays forward and has been playing since she was 4-years-old, “Because my dad took me outside and told me to shoot, and did and I was like yeah, I can do this.” Nellie plays for APA along with Cassie. “The idea of going big, I don’t have nobody that inspires me,” said Nellie on the topic of who inspires her. For her, the main inspiration is where she can go with it, so she’s definitely self-inspired. She likes playing because of her teammates and the feeling of belonging to something. She has learned to never give up, even when she doesn’t want to keep going. She does want to go to college, but she does not yet know where she wants to go. Her immediate response to what her favorite hobbies are was, “Netflix. and sleeping.” She mostly likes to keep her life to school and basketball.

Ajianna “AJ” Bonapart, number 20 is a junior guard. She began playing when she was five-years-old, because because all her cousins were playing various sports. She has been playing for the Spartans Club Team, for several months now. She enjoys playing basketball because it is fun, competitive and gets her mind off of different things. Some of her other hobbies include, “Watching and helping younger kids play, also sleeping.” Her drive comes from those who have told her she won’t do or be anything, which made her practice harder, and put in the work. Her coaches, also helped her a lot. Her inspirations are Kobe Bryant, Trae Young and Candace Parker.

Check out your Lady Cougars at the following home games:

Thursday 1/3 vs SCHS

Tuesday 1/25 vs Pueblo

Thursday 1/27 vs Cholla

Monday 1/31 vs Buena

Thursday 2/3 vs Sahuarita

(All dates subject to change.)