Not everyone was thrilled to see who Priscilla Wright scheduled to play in her second game as the varsity girls basketball coach at Centennial.
Taking over head coaching duties for a Golden Hawk team that had gone 21-63 over the previous three seasons, Wright's tenure couldn't have started much better.
After closing a 5-25 2018-19 season with 12 straight losses, Centennial clubbed Mira Monte 81-56 in its Nov. 19 opener. The 81 points were the most the Golden Hawks had scored since Jan. 31, 2007.
Things weren't so easy in game two. Facing a far more formidable foe in Clovis West, Centennial fell behind 29-2 at the end of the first quarter, eventually losing 85-21.
Wright says it was no accident that her young team, which replaced more than 60 percent of its scoring from a season ago, faced such a stiff challenge out of the gate, as she specifically sought out a matchup with the Golden Eagles.
Despite receiving criticism for arranging a game she had no expectations of winning, Wright did so with a very specific end goal in mind.
"I set that game up because I wanted (our players) to see my expectations," she said. "I wanted to say 'Hey, this is where I expect you to be.' A lot of people asked me 'Why would you do that?' But I prepared them mentally to go in there."
Things have only gotten better since.
Following a second win against Mira Monte Saturday, Centennial, which didn't win more than 10 games in any of the previous three seasons, improved to 10-4. After a 2-3 start, the Golden Hawks won six straight, the team's longest win streak since 2014.
In a locker room filled with young players who haven't experienced success at the varsity level, the mood has understandably been elevated.
"We have a lot of energy in practice and people are happier to be there," said junior guard Jessica Christie, the team's leading scorer. "We're winning more obviously, but there's more energy and it's way more fun."
Though the Clovis game skewed some of their stats, the Golden Hawks have been winning with a swarming perimeter defense that is recording 18.5 steals per game. Jordyn Toler (3.7), Sabrina Works (3.5) and Christie (3.3) are all averaging over three swipes per contest.
With no dominant scorer, the offense is also relying on balance, as six players are currently averaging between 5.0 and 8.1 points per game.
Most exciting to Wright is that none of those scorers are seniors, and emerging talents like sophomore Grace Felix (8.0 points per game) and freshman Toler (7.4) figure to be key contributors for years to come.
"We have 10 returning (players) and most of them are my core next year," Wright said. "This is just kind of a confidence-building year, showing them what we can do."
Hoping to keep her goals realistic, Wright believes an SWYL title may be "a little out of reach this year," with veteran-heavy teams like Bakersfield and Frontier standing in the way.
And while a middle-of-the-pack finish would be a step up in her first season, Wright says such modest expectations will not be the norm going forward.
"I think a couple years from now, we're going to be one of those top teams," she said. "We're really going to start gelling. I'm very excited for the future."