Tacony freshman finding success on the hardwood

Tacony Charter freshman Yasmine Gonzalez helped guide the Lions to the state playoffs. PHOTO: AMP STUDIOS, Inc.

It’s always nice to have someone to help you get acclimated to a new situation.

When Yasmine Gonzalez entered Tacony Charter High School, whenever she needed help, she would go to her brother, Marcos.

Like his sister, Marcos is a great athlete who is happy to help anyone, especially his little sister.

“He’s helped me my whole life in sports and with everything,” said Gonzalez, a freshman. “In basketball, whenever I’m not playing well, he’ll go outside with me and we’ll play. I don’t help him too much, I’ll sometimes get the ball for him when he’s shooting, but he helps me a lot.”

For now, Gonzalez is helping her basketball team make school history.

This year, the Lions made the playoffs for the first time ever. They also won a playoff game for the first time and then advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in school history.

The Lions lost in the first round of the state playoffs, 57–37, to Sacred Heart, but it did little to take the shine off of a great season.

Gonzalez might not be big, but she’s definitely a big reason for Tacony Charter’s success.

“Yasmine just won’t stop when she’s out there, she’s always coming at you,” said Tacony Charter coach Paul Rieser. “She comes at you the whole game. She’s such a ball of energy. She’s our spark plug. It can really wear on you when you have a player who is always going and going and going. There’s no stopping her.”

Gonzalez, a 4-foot-11 guard, certainly can light up the scoresheet, averaging just over 11.5 points per game, but it’s on the other end of the court where she earns her keep.

This year, she averaged an outrageous 12 steals per game.

“Those are 12 steals, not 12 times she knocks the ball away and somebody else gets it,” Rieser said. “There are games where our opponents have 25 turnovers and she had a hand in forcing 20 of them. She’s such a key player for our defense. She’s like a mosquito, just coming at you at all times.”

Gonzalez’s defense was one of the main reasons she was first-team All-Public. Not a bad honor for someone who wasn’t even sure she was going to play varsity when the season started.

“I played at the middle school, and we were good, but I knew there were a lot of good players here, so I wasn’t sure (if I would start),” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t find out I was going to start until the season started. Then we all started learning how to play together.

“I try to bring scoring, but I’m more of a dribbler, more of a passer and defensive player. I love doing those things. I like doing everything out there, especially when we’re winning.”

Gonzalez might not look like a basketball star when you see her before the game, but once she gets going, she proves she belongs.

Her height, which at times can be problematic for her, at times is an advantage.

“The biggest problem with my size is when I’m going up for a layup, I can get blocked when I go against taller players,” Gonzalez said. “But when I get blocked, it doesn’t bother me, I’ll go in again. I’ll try and score over them again, either go around them or pass it to someone else. I don’t mind getting blocked.

“And my height helps me on defense. A lot of times, I’m able to steal the ball because I’m very quick. I’m always trying to get steals and use my quickness. I think it helps a lot when I’m playing defense.”

Thanks to her quickness, Gonzalez was expected to come into Tacony Charter and compete right away at the high school level. But the odd thing is, her impact was slated to be felt during the spring.

Growing up, Gonzalez has was a top-flight softball player, where she starred in the middle infield. And while she might be a bit behind on her spring sport, she will be ready to play when the season rolls around.

“This year was great in basketball, and it’s fun because I always thought of myself as a softball player,” Gonzalez said. “I play second base and shortstop and that’s always been my main sport.

“I usually hit at the top of the lineup, usually first or second, try to get on base and then use my speed. So I use a lot of the same things in baseball and softball.”

Though this year’s run through basketball season may have her look at her athletic career a little differently, it’s raised expectations both for her and the team moving forward.

“I never played AAU, I usually just play club softball,” said Gonzalez, who plays for the Nightmare Fastpitch team based out of South Jersey. “I still think softball is my (main) sport, but I might play AAU (basketball). This was a great basketball season.”

And it could stay that way for some time at Tacony Charter.

“This is a very young team, we had seniors who meant a lot, but we were very young, in terms of starters and girls off the bench,” Rieser said. “These are all girls, mostly, who have gone to the middle school here, and they’ve gotten better as a group. This year has been great, and hopefully things stay that way.”