Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Monstrous Summer Prepares Ursuline's Guerra For Senior Season

From as early back as she can recall, basketball has been both a passion and a lifestyle for Korina Guerra. Now smack in the upper percentile of Westchester County's elite playmaking guards, the Ursuline senior and Sacred Heart-commit inherits some ownership of Beth Wooters' program this season.

The 5-foot-9 off guard, who aspires to be a coach herself one day, enters her senior season with a newfound love for the game.

The purity of the team game--that extra pass, whip-the-rock around style synonymous with the 2014 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs--has both appeal and resonance with the seasoned Guerra. Ursuline places constant emphasis on being efficient with the basketball, finding the right shot, and valuing the ball as if there's gold encrusted inside it.

"When I was younger I looked up to the seniors and juniors to guide me through the season," Guerra said.

"As I got older, I found myself acquiring those leadership skills and incorporating them into my game."

Guerra has gradually progressed from an outside shooting threat to a facilitator and all-around scorer, a girl who can just get buckets. She enters the final campaign just a few points shy of the 1,000-point milestone. Individual totals, however, appear meaningless to the senior captain.

Guerra will be asked to deliver during pressure cooking, crunch time moments. With her wealth of veteran know-how and the IQ factor, she will lead a balanced core.

This summer, Guerra spent a majority of her time gauging her grit for the bigger role.

 She began the NCAA live period with Exodus-NYC on the Nike Girls EYBL circuit, with a road swing that included stops in Virginia and Tennessee and Georgia.

The team advanced to Nike nationals, where Guerra had the opportunity to guard UConn-commit Lexi Gordon. Arguably the most unique challenge of the summer, it was ultimately a harbinger of her ramped up role at Ursuline this year.

"Ursuline thrives on getting defensive stops and that triggers most of our offense," said Guerra, who listed a County Center appearance and beyond as team goals.

"Coach Beth relies on team leaders to set the tone and then every other player buys in."

Following a gold medal in the annual BCANY games in Binghamton, Guerra's Westchester Hoopers squad won tournaments in Dyckman, Gun Hill, and at the fabled "cage" at West Fourth Street.

The West Fourth Street experience concluded with Guerra receiving a stockpile of official Nike gear and a six foot trophy.

"The West Fourth Street tournament was filled with top-level competition," Guerra explained.

"Our team came ready to play hard every game and it yielded us the No.1 seed going into the playoffs. We earned a first round bye and then defeated the Riverside Hawks in the semifinals. In the championship, we faced the Lady Gauchos and were victorious in front of a packed crowd."

The win didn't come without the dramatics. The Hoopers came clawing back from a deficit, forcing overtime on Guerra's layup with two seconds remaining.

In the extra period, augmented defensive pressure enabled them to gut out the win.

Guerra has bought into the team concept since she was a callow but promising 14-year-old freshman fighting for meaningful minutes on a veteran-laden team.

Guerra's bloodline helped her get an early taste of higher competition. Rarely playing at age-appropriate levels, she grew up with a pickup or driveway game readily available at all times.

You may remember her older brother Ky Guerra, a menacing scoring guard at Stepinac (now at Philadelphia U). Her father, Keith Guerra, is a devout hoops junkie.

"I would say my Dad has influenced me the most," Guerra said. "I've always been 'Daddy's little girl' and I felt our relationship grew through basketball. Through all the blood, sweat and tears, my Dad was right there with me. I'm forever grateful for all the work both he and my brother have put in with and for me."