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  • Hector Amezcua /

    Sacramento State’s Alle Moreno waits for her turn to shoot free throws during practice at the Nest on Friday.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Sacramento State’s Alle Moreno practices her 3-point shot at the Nest on Friday.

Moreno leaving strong legacy at Sacramento State

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 - 11:20 pm

On New Year’s Day, Alle Moreno exchanged hip checks and jump shots with her two older sisters in an impromptu five-on-five family basketball game.

“It still gets a little competitive,” Moreno said with a smile. “There were some elbows thrown. Mom had to step in and be the official.”

A day later, the 5-foot-4 Sacramento State senior guard spent a whirlwind night playing with reckless abandon in helping lead the Hornets to a historic 107-95 win over visiting Montana State in a Big Sky Conference opener.

It was Sac State’s ninth win in 10 games – the best women’s basketball start in school history – and the most points ever scored by the Hornets women in a regulation game.

It’s just the latest milestone in a record-shattering season for the program, with Moreno playing a huge role.

Against Montana State, Moreno seemed to be everywhere and into everything.

She threw her body at taller opponents while competing for rebounds. She jumped in the passing lanes for steals.

She dribbled behind her back and drove full throttle to the basket for layups, scraping herself face-first off the floor after drawing hard contact. With her unorthodox slingshot release, she hit critical 3-pointers.

The three-year starter and team leader finished with 24 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals while playing a game-high 36 minutes in the Hornets’ frenzied game plan called “The System.”

For longtime friend and team manager/video coordinator Eden Aguilar, it meant another night of peace.

“Alle definitely hates to lose,” said Aguilar, who has known Moreno since they were classmates at St. Mary’s High School in Stockton. “You don’t want to be around her when that happens.

“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve won all our home games this year,” Aguilar added. “But in past years, her mom and dad would say after a loss, ‘We’re glad she’s going home with you.’ 

Sac State is glad Moreno made herself at home in the Nest, the school’s cozy gym, where she’s climbing the school’s career lists.

Entering today’s 2 p.m. home game against defending Big Sky champion Montana, Moreno is first in career 3-pointers (200), second in steals (181) and ninth in points (1,047). This season, Moreno leads the Hornets in scoring (17.1 points per game) and minutes (30.0), and is tied for second in assists (3.3). She also ranks third in rebounding (5.0) despite her diminutive stature.

“She’s the heart and soul of our team,” first-year coach Bunky Harkleroad said. “She’s a big part of Sacramento State basketball. She’s a great teammate. She walks the walk.”

The two-year team captain helped keep the Hornets unified and focused through a late coaching change. Moreno had a special bond with former Sac State head coach Jamie Craighead and assistant Jourdan Willard, both of whom left in September for the same positions at San Jose State.

Harkleroad came in with a new staff (except Bill Baxter) and an innovative and even faster system that the players are still learning.

“(Moreno) has had a huge impact on how well we’ve done because of how close she was with her previous coach,” said senior forward Sadie Clements, Moreno’s roommate. “Everyone was looking at her to see her reaction. But she stayed stable. There was no sadness, no depression. She was just ready to move on. She wasn’t going to let a coaching change affect this season.”

Moreno credits Harkleroad, along with new assistants Kim Stephens and Derrick Florence, for a smooth transition.

“We’re not the easiest players to deal with,” she said. “We’re a rambunctious group that comes from a lot of different backgrounds.”

Now a polished player with two Big Sky honorable mention selections, Moreno credits Craighead for believing in her and giving her a shot at playing Division I basketball.

In her junior and senior years at St. Mary’s, Moreno was one of numerous standouts on two of the greatest girls teams in Sac-Joaquin Section history. The Rams won back-to-back state titles, and the 2009-10 Rams (34-1) were’s mythical national champions.

Six of Moreno’s teammates earned D-I scholarships, including Chelsea Gray (Duke), Afure Jemerigbe (Cal) and Ali Gibson (Oregon State). Perhaps because of her size, Moreno received only a handful of nibbles from smaller colleges.

When Craighead and Sac State offered, Moreno not only got the D-I scholarship she aspired to, she found a coach similar in temperament and drive.

“I fell in love with the program and everything she was trying to do as a coach,” Moreno said. “It was a perfect fit for me.”

Craighead’s belief in Moreno got her through a rocky freshman season when, as a reserve playing nine minutes a game, she questioned her ability to play at such a high level.

Craighead and Willard also helped Moreno navigate panic attacks that often left her faint and dizzy, though she’s never missed a game.

“I started to have panic attacks every day,” Moreno said of her sophomore season. “We’ve never been able to figure out what started it, but I’ve had understanding coaches and friends who have helped me through it.”

Moreno also has a grip on her career goal. Coaching is No. 1 on the wish list for the criminal justice major with a 3.49 grade-point average.

“I played for Jamie for three years, and she not only drove me to be the best basketball player but influenced me as an individual,” Moreno said. “I like the impact she made in my life, and I’d like to be able to do the same thing for other kids one day, too.”

In the fall, Moreno will enroll at San Jose State and become a graduate assistant coach under Craighead.

“I see a lot of Jamie Craighead in Alle,” Aguilar said. “I’ve been around both. Honestly, Alle is Jamie’s ‘Mini Me.’ Like Jamie, Alle is definitely going places.”

Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

Read more articles by Bill Paterson

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