Brynn Thoming was a bit lost early in her senior season.
Ashlyn Herlihy, Thoming’s teammate on the Arroyo Grande High School girls basketball team last season and one of the best players to ever wear an Arroyo Grande jersey, was gone. The Eagles former star had graduated and joined the Santa Clara basketball team.
Thoming was the obvious successor.
“I was told, you need to step up and fill that gap of Ashlyn leaving,” Thoming said, sitting in the bleachers of the Arroyo Grande gym last week. “I was like, ‘Shoot, I guess I do. I have to go out and score 25 points a game. How am I going to do this?’ ”
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It wasn’t easy at first. Thoming, who averaged 17 points per game last season, found herself rushing bad shots. No longer did she have the luxury of Herlihy drawing double teams to provide her wide-open looks.
As the season progressed, Thoming began to find her way by looking to her teammates — and the past.
Thoming and Arroyo Grande teammates Kinsey McBryde and Meghan Smith have been playing either with or against each other since they first started playing competitive basketball.
Thoming said she finally started feeling comfortable as team leader when she stopped over-thinking her new leadership role and just played the way she did with her friends back in elementary school.
“Me, Meg and Kinsey have always had really good chemistry,” Thoming said. “But we never had an Ashlyn, so it completely changed. This season, our chemistry went back to how we played as kids.”
The result was a stellar season for all three, led by Thoming’s all-around game. When the season ended with a second-round defeat in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, they cried.
“When we lost, I thought this is the last game with my girls,” Thoming said. “I grew up with them. It was a hard time just realizing this is it. This is the last game with my ‘Day 1s.’ It was hard. It was emotional for all of us.”
But Thoming, with the help of her friends, accomplished plenty before the season ended.
In league play, she averaged 15 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 3.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, as well as having the added task of guarding the other team’s best player on most nights. Arroyo Grande finished with a 12-2 record in PAC 8 play (20-7 overall), with its only two losses coming to powerhouse Righetti. The second loss sticks in Thoming’s mind.
“I just remember just so desperately wanted to win. That game especially,” Thoming said.
Arroyo Grande lost by three points, but Thoming scored a season-high 26 points.
“We fell a little short, but in the end I was proud of how we played. We weren’t supposed to come that close,” Thoming said.
Thoming continued her strong play through the end of the league season and capped it with one of the best games of her life against Atascadero. Thoming led the Eagles to a 75-42 win over the Greyhounds with a triple-double — 22 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists to go along with five steals and four blocks.
It was the perfect game to show how far she had come from the rushed shooting she showed in the preseason.
“She is a true scorer. She can shoot the three, post up and slash,” Arroyo Grande head coach Bryan Hutchens said.
When Thoming was called up to varsity as a 5-foot-10 sophomore, she did most of her scoring as a post player. But Hutchens saw her ability as a playmaker and moved her to point guard — a position she had never played before.
Thoming dedicated herself to learning the position, often working out with Herlihy on off days and watching game tape.
“I am a film fanatic,” Thoming said. “I go on HUDL more than I go on social media.”
Now, after a high school career that included a 38-4 record in league play, Thoming will decide where she wants to play basketball when she graduates. She visited George Fox University in Oregon last week and is considering the Division III school because she may have the chance to play both basketball and volleyball.
If anyone can adapt to a demanding two-sport schedule, it’s Thoming.
“I am addicted to being busy,” said Thoming, who often practiced three different sports in one day. “Just being in the gym is just something I have always found comforting.”
Thoming dedicated her Player of the Year honor to Ryan Texieira, a former Arroyo Grande student who died last week after fighting cancer for the second time.
“He was one of my brother Jayce’s best friends. They are only a year a part, and his whole little group is really close,” Thoming said. “(Teixeira) was a big brother and role model to me, and I have always looked up to him in sports, just his passion for baseball and his passion for people. He was honestly such a great person.
“It is so sad to see him go, but he was definitely a huge impact to everybody. I would be blessed to change the world like he did.”