Basketball has dominated Riley Holladay’s life the past four years. When she’s not leading Spanish Springs on the court, she’s competing on a travel team.
Her basketball career is marked by a series of highs and lows. The guard has had huge games in marquee matchups, but also struggled at times against elite teams.
Last season, she scored 19 points in a victory over Bishop Manogue in a game few thought Spanish Springs could win. Performances like that have led to scholarship offers from Cal State East Bay, Menlo and Cal State Stanislaus.
However, it has been how she handles adversity, and more importantly, how she rebounds from it, that defines Holladay, 17.
After Spanish Springs was upset by Carson in the first round of last year’s Northern 4A regional tournament, a heart-broken Holladay walked off the court and into the locker room. She had scored just four points as her team fell 41-36 to the Senators. It was the third consecutive year Holladay and her team had been knocked out in the first round of the tournament.
Right after the game, Holladay decided she would use the loss as fuel for the next season.
“She told me she would come back a better player, and make sure the things that were holding her down wouldn’t hold her down this year,” said Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles. “She’s kept her word. She’s better at those things that were her weakness.”
Holladay was introduced to basketball by her older brother and soon fell in love with the game.
“When I was little, I always wanted to be like my older brother and he played basketball before me, so I was following what he was doing.”
She met teammate Lyndsey Anderson on the playground at Van Gorder Elementary. The two have been playing together ever since.
“We knew that we could play together in the future,” Anderson said. “We were the first freshmen on varsity together, so we’ve bonded through that. Riley’s a big part of our team. She’s our motivational leader”
Eckles remembers the first time she saw Holladay, then a sub 5-foot freshman, on the court. She knew then she had a special player.
“We knew she was a good basketball player,” Eckles said. “We weren’t sure if physically she could handle the varsity level. She’s just gotten better and better. Her attitude is what makes her a special player. She’s one of the hardest workers in practice. She listens. She wants to get better. “
The team’s goal this season is to get out of the first round of the state tournament. For Holladay, who is averaging 11.4 points per game, reaching this goal would be the perfect ending.
“It means everything, just going out with a bang, playing as hard as I can,” she said. “It would mean a lot, because we’ve all been here together. If we reach it, it would mean the world.”
The senior will continue her career, accepting a scholarship offer to play for Cal State Stanislaus next year.
“It will be difficult to leave everything behind, but at the same time I’m excited about it because I want to be able to go out on my own and see what I’m made of,” she said. “I’m looking forward to learning and taking my game to the next level.”