The Arroyo Grande High School girls basketball team — with no seniors on the roster and the departure of last season’s County Player of the Year — wasn’t expected to come close to competing for league title this season. Those expectations were lowered another notch when the team’s biggest player and captain Peyton Pelech went down with an ACL tear in the first game of summer practice.
But Jayci Bayne never bought into the expectations.
The junior, along with a pair of talented freshman, helped lead Arroyo Grande (19-8, 12-2 PAC 8) to a second-place finish in the PAC 8 with the team’s only losses coming to senior-heavy powerhouse Righetti.
Bayne moved from a bench player last season to the go-to option for Arroyo Grande this season, averaging 17 points, four assists and nearly three steals per game while leading the Eagles to a first-round win in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. For her accomplishments, Bayne has been named The Tribune 2017-18 Girls Basketball County Player of the Year.
“It was difficult in the beginning,” Bayne said. “I am close friends with Peyton, but I think her loss helped build our team together. It really helped with chemistry.”
As one of just three returners, head coach Bryan Hutchens expected a lot from Bayne as she adjusted to her new role as point guard and team leader — and she responded.
“She is just a baller,” Hutchens said. “She has great vision, and her anticipation is off the charts.”
Bayne made a living at the free throw line thanks to her ability to get to the rim and draw fouls. In a comeback win against SLO High, Bayne hit 10 straight free throws in the second half to seal it.
“I am not that great of a shooter, so I figured the only way I am going to score is if I am attacking,” Bayne said of the season.
That mentality helped the freshman sharpshooters — Kaiya Ellison and Kathleen Hutchens — find plenty of open looks and average 13 points and 12 points per game, respectively.
But it was an early season game against Mission Prep when the points didn’t come so easily that taught her the biggest lesson.
“I struggled offensively. I wasn’t getting any calls, but that game helped me a lot to understand what I can do to help my team without scoring,” Bayne said. “Ever since that game, if it’s not going on offense, I have to get it going on defense.”
Bayne also learned just how good Arroyo Grande can be in two losses to a Righetti team that would advance to the Final Four of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A playoffs.
In both meetings, Arroyo Grande was in the game at halftime before Righetti pulled away.
“It was fun to be that close to beating them. We were just trying to prove to ourselves that we could play,” Bayne said. “It sucked that we lost, but it just showed us how good we can be.”
With the entire team expected back, plus the return of Pelech, Arroyo Grande won’t be sneaking up on anyone next season, and that's just fine with Bayne.
“I am hoping that we can win league because I think I have the talent. I am super excited,” Bayne said.