NPA Girls Basketball Celebrates Milestone Senior Night

The Northland Preparatory Academy girls basketball team celebrated a momentous senior night on Saturday, February 3, 2024, honoring a standout group of 9 seniors that led the Spartans to new heights.

After NPA clinched a 61-11 victory over Sedona to improve their record to 10-5, the girls and boys basketball seniors took center stage for the annual ceremony. The 15 varsity players from both teams walked to half-court accompanied by parents and siblings as their accomplishments were highlighted by teammates.

“Senior night is setting aside a special time to really showcase our seniors,” said NPA girls basketball coach Josee Deloretto, now in her third year with the team and second year as head coach.

“Giving them a special night acknowledges all the work they’ve put into the program and the school. It puts a spotlight on them – which they deserve,” Deloretto said.

The ceremony reflected on the tremendous growth of the seniors over their high school careers, both as athletes and leaders.

“As coaches, we see what goes on in practices, but we don't always see what's happening during the school day or what they're doing on the weekends. And to hear some of these stories was really fun for me,” Deloretto said of the touching messages read about each senior as they took center stage.

A special night.

“The night is very special,” Deloretto explained. “We're with them pretty much every single day for three, four months, over the past three years. And as we're trying to teach them the game, we're also trying to make them into amazing humans as well.

“It's not just about basketball. For me, it’s amazing to see their growth, to see them accomplish goals, to see them do hard things,” Deloretto said. “Watching them develop into wonderful you girls, young adults has been amazing.”

This standout group of seniors led the Lady Spartans to new heights - a 10-5 record so far this season and a #14 ranking in 2A Central, the highest-ever ranking for the NPA girls basketball program.

Sports teach life lessons.

Deloretto believes the lessons from basketball prepare the girls for life beyond the court.

“What these kids learn by doing a sport is invaluable for them moving on in life,” she said. “All the little things they learn make it easier for them down the line.”

For Deloretto, it’s these lessons that are invaluable.

“All the lessons they've learned from being a teammate, from persevering, from overcoming injuries or defeats, or personal issues in the game - all those things that we help them through and teach them and get them working as amazing teammates, really uplifting each other, is amazing for me,” she said.

While the team will sorely miss this talented senior class, Deloretto is confident the program will continue to build on the foundation they helped establish.

“It’s important to have a strong foundation. We need to build on the middle school program so that we have people stepping up, staying at NPA through high school,” she explained.

“It’s going to be a new look for us next year, definitely,” Deloretto said, confident the returning players will work hard in the offseason to fill some pretty big shoes.

There’s more to a moment than meets the eye.

The coach explained that the team's growth extends far beyond what photographs could capture.

“Photographs can't capture how we've grown as a unit over these past years - especially this year. I feel like we've really tried to focus on both the physical and mental parts of the game,” she said, noting that it takes all five players to win a game, not just one.

“Those are the lessons learned throughout a season, their growth as a unit, that can't always be captured on film,” Deloretto added.

As the seniors move on to college and new adventures, the team is proud of their accomplishments.

“I don’t know if there ever will be a group of seniors like we’ve had this year. Not just the numbers but also skill-wise on the court and the unity as a team. I don't know if we'll ever have a group like this," Deloretto said. “And as much as it breaks my heart not to have them here next year, I'm super excited for them to move on in life and grow and see what they're going to do.”

Coach Deloretto recognized one of the biggest team components: coaches.

"I honestly could not have done it without coach Marianne Galfano,” Deloretto said. “She has a wealth of knowledge, and as alike as we are in many ways, she balances me out in so many ways. I am so thankful to have a new friend for life. Love you, Marianne!"

Deloretto also acknowledged assistant coach Ned Tognacci's contributions.

"Ned not only has great knowledge of the game, but he is such a great person I love being around," Deloretto said, appreciating his ideas and perspectives.

“Thank you, Ned, for everything you’ve done for me and our team."

Changing of the guard.

As the ceremony came to a close, NPA boys coach Brent Hanson took the mic and summed up the night by defining the comprehensive basketball program NPA has been working to build.

"Building a successful program, not just winning games, comes down ultimately influencing the next generation, who's ever up next ready to play. And if you look at the kids behind me, these young players are ready to play, and they are hungry," Hanson said.

“You seniors have had to bear that mantle this season, and you've done incredibly well. You've influenced a whole generation of kids at NPA who want to be like you, who want to be those posters up there on the wall. And I'm proud of you all."

Coach Deloretto opted not to talk at the ceremony for fear she “couldn’t keep it together,” but she had this to say after the game.

“Every single one of them is really a special human,” she said. “I think I'm a better person and a better coach having coached them, honestly. I know they're all going to do amazing things in life. I hope that I can, in some capacity, have them in my life. I can't imagine not knowing what was going on with them and their future.”

Note from Sean: At this point in my conversation with Coach Deloretto, I asked her to tell me a little about each player and what she hoped for them as they transitioned to the next phase of their lives. I started summarizing what Coach Deloretto said about each player, but the words were too meaningful to edit out.

Below is the transcript from each player with minimal editing for punctuation, grammar and clarity.

Some players also responded to some questions.


“Abby Short is amazingly coachable and the epitome of a team player,” said Coach Deloretto. “She's easy to coach. She's a coach's dream, honestly. Everything that Abby does to better herself as a basketball player is for the team's benefit. It's never about her.

“She's the one that will go in and put in the extra work. You can tell her something once, and she'll practice it until she gets it down and implements it in our game. For a coach, that's just so, so great. She's improved drastically over the last few years and is a significant part of this team.

“I know whatever Abby does in her life, she will succeed. She has a level-headed approach to everything and a desire to do better. So, whatever she does, she's going to do amazing things. I wish her all the best.”

What did Senior Night feel like (what did it mean to you)?

“Senior night was super exciting and a little emotional,” said Abby. “Basketball has been such a fun sport because of the good friends that I have in it. Senior night was kind of mind-blowing because we were the ones that were walking out. I’m very grateful for all the fun memories that I was able to have with all the other seniors. I’m also grateful for the coaches who made it possible for me to be a senior in basketball.”

How has the NPA basketball program influenced who you are?

“This program has made me better as a person and has helped me make many new friends,” said Abby. “I’m really grateful for it because basketball is a team sport, and this program has taught me to work as a team. The coaches make this program work, and they helped me accomplish so much more in my life.”

What do you know about yourself that you didn't know when you started?

“I never knew how much I could really love and miss a sport, especially basketball,” said Abby. “I also didn’t know how many good friends I could make through basketball.”


“I was devastated by what happened to Campbell, obviously from a soccer standpoint, but also from a basketball standpoint,” said Coach Deloretto. “Soccer was always her primary sport, but she always wanted to improve at basketball. She never lets me down. She was always trying to get better at what she was doing on the court.

“She's always been one of the smartest players on the court, in my opinion. She's also very smart on the soccer field. She uses her head when she's out there in the game.

“This year, obviously, with her not playing, we had to adjust her role a little bit, but she was still a really big part of the team. We definitely missed having her play this year. She had a role as a team manager, but she was more the bench manager. She would sit on the bench and help during the game. During games, she helped the coaches. She took stats. She was there when we needed her. She was invaluable to us in her role this year but was definitely missed on the court.

“Campbell is the kind of player who never gives up, no matter what. She's very dedicated to what she does and wants to excel. So, knowing that about her, I'm sure it wasn't easy for her on the sidelines, but she was 100% present. She persevered and came through it, and she's working her way back to the goals that she wants to accomplish. I applaud her for that. She's fantastic, and I think with her determination, she will do great.

“As far as her future is concerned, I know her older sisters and knowing her family, I know she's another player that's going to do well with whatever she does. She's super ambitious, focused on what she wants to do and shows intelligence in her decisions.

“I know she's trying to decide what she will do next year in terms of schooling and college and sports. So, as she navigates that decision, I know she will come up with what’s right for her, and she will excel at it. She's a great young adult who will succeed in life.”



“Chloe and Kyra were fantastic,” said Coach Deloretto.

“Kyra was full-time with us last year as a manager and didn't hesitate to sign back this year. Chloe had a less substantial role last year. She mostly helped with home.

“Chloe decided to join Kyra full-time this year, and they’ve been invaluable to our team. They took care of everything behind the scenes. They helped us get what we needed for away games. They had everything set up at home games. They both showed uber responsibility.

“I never had to chase them down. They were always on it. So, it's been fantastic having student team managers. It takes such a burden off the coaches. They took their role seriously and have been a blessing to our team.

“One of them was at every practice. They're at every single game, and they help us with anything that we need. I can't tell you how invaluable that was. I've also known both from soccer for quite a long time, and they're my youngest daughter's friends, so they have a special place in my heart.

“Unfortunately, we didn't have a junior manager step up this year. So, whoever we bring on next year will have to be trained. But I'm not too worried about the training part. It's just a matter of finding somebody or multiple people who are as dedicated to helping the team as they were.

“You know, training is the easy part. It's dedication and reliability that isn't always teachable. It's one of those things that comes from within the person. It's a tough one. That's why we got so lucky with Cloe and Kyra.”


“Grace has such a passion for the game,” said Coach Deloretto. “And that's fun because many kids come out for high school sports, but they're not all in. It's not their primary passion.

“Well, basketball is Grace's primary passion. So, it's fun to have a player that exudes excitement for the game constantly. It helps bring some of the other players around to that as well.

“Grace always wants to get better. Whether it's watching game films on her own, looking into other teams, or reviewing stats on her own, oftentimes, she would send me the preliminary rundown on the next team we're playing.

“That, for me, was fun because I don't typically have players doing that on the side. Having strategy discussions with Grace about our upcoming games is always fun.

“Grace's passion for the game really shows through in practices and games. And it's exciting for a coach to see that in a player. It also raises the passion level of the whole team.

“I'm pretty passionate about the game. And, for the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to bring that out in some of the players. I'm trying to help foster that. I never had to do that with Grace. With Grace, I'm able to share my passion with her. So, that's fun for me to do as a coach.

“I hope that whatever Grace decides to do, she just has fun doing it. She's just such a smart kid. She has so many great qualities and a lot to offer. I'm anxious to see her grow as a young adult. Grace and I are pretty close, and we have lots of discussions. So, I do not doubt I'll be in touch with her as she grows and moves on in her life.”

What did Senior Night feel like (what did it mean to you)?

“Senior Night felt amazing,” said Grace. “The game was great because we were clicking on all fronts. It was very special because I got to be on the court as the next generation of our team took it. I especially liked having Wren take the ball up. They all have a bright future. It was surreal because basketball was all I’d been working towards for seven years. I can’t believe it’s coming to an end."

How has the NPA basketball program influenced who you are?

“Playing and starting on varsity for NPA basketball has been my goal since seventh grade,” said Grace. “I really wanted to make varsity my freshman year; that didn’t happen, but that gave me even more motivation to work harder in the off-season. The coaches and my teammates helped me realize that my performance in basketball doesn’t determine my self-worth, which I struggled with throughout middle school and the beginning of high school. I used to suck at basketball, but I persevered through the hard times and worked my butt off to get here. I showed myself that I can do almost anything if I worked hard enough and kept God at the forefront of my heart. I became obsessed with basketball, and to be honest, I still am, but I think the best thing I got out of this program is all the connections I made with my teammates and coaches.”


“Kyra Scott's probably the best gamer on our team,” said Coach Deloretto. “Kyra is somebody who gives 100% all the time. And there are a lot of situations in games where I will turn to her to carry the team on the floor.

“She's someone with a lot of resilience. She barely comes off the floor. She's a floor general. She's tenacious on defense. And she helps communicate some of our coaching points from the sideline to the team. So, she's definitely invaluable in that aspect for sure.

“These kids are all fantastic, but Kyra, I just want Kyra to find her way and be happy. I know whatever she chooses to do, she'll excel at. I'm excited to hear her stories.

“It sounds like she wants to take a gap semester. It seems like that's going to be something that helps her grow as a person. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she can do in life. She's just the kind of person who perseveres and is a go-getter. I do not doubt that she will be great whatever she chooses.”

What did Senior Night feel like (what did it mean to you)?

“Senior Night was really amazing!” said Kyra. “It was really cool to see all my classmates that I have been playing sports with for the last four years come together and be celebrated. I am so grateful for the time and effort everyone put into that night to make it special for us! It meant a lot that everyone came to celebrate us and our accomplishments!”

How has the NPA basketball program influenced who you are?

“It has shaped me as a person, and I wouldn't be as strong or confident as I am today if I hadn't played basketball,” Kyra said. “It has also shown me that teamwork is so important in sports and everyday life. It has also brought me some of my closest friends I might not have gotten close with if it wasn't for basketball.”

What do you know about yourself that you didn't know when you started?

“I know now that I can accomplish amazing things through dedication, hard work, and trust in others,” Kyra said. “During my freshman year of basketball, I never imagined myself starting on varsity and making it to the playoffs. Being in this place right now feels so right, but I never would have made it here if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone freshman year and tried out for basketball. I'm honestly so grateful for my friends, family, and coaches who have supported me because I definitely wouldn't be here without them.”



“Lizzy Tognacci has been playing for quite some time, and she is definitely passionate about the sport,” said Coach Deloretto. “She's had a couple of setbacks this year, and she continues to push through and come through the other end. She's continued to improve her game on the court. Lizzy is extremely smart and is another tenacious defender on our team. She can read what's happening on the court, and how she steals shows that intelligence. She can anticipate what will happen and take charge on the court.

“Lizzy has great insights and has such impressive reflection. Whenever we have discussions after games, she always seems to find a point that maybe I missed, so I love to hear what she has to say about a team's performance after a game. She has really good insights. She's also really determined, and I know she's pushed herself a lot this year. I'm so happy to see her finish the season as strongly as she is.

“Lizzy's another player I've known longer than I've been coaching. I love her family. Her father helps me coach. So, it's fun to have her family involved.

“I know she hasn't decided what she's doing after high school, but she's another player who will do great. She's extremely intelligent. And I know that she will be fantastic whatever she wants to pursue educationally. Lizzy is going to be active her entire life. She's just one of those people who, if she's not playing basketball or soccer, she's hiking, doing yoga, doing this, doing that. Her life is always full of activity. And I know she will never be one to be bored. She's always got things going on.”

What did Senior Night feel like (what did it mean to you)?

“Senior night was very bittersweet because I have enjoyed playing with these girls all four years, but I am also super excited for what we move onto next!” said Lizzy. “Celebrating some of my closest friends and all they have done in the last four years was fun.”

How has the NPA basketball program influenced who you are?

“The NPA basketball program has brought me an amazing group of girls,” said Lizzy. “I have learned something valuable from them, which I am grateful for. One thing that has really stuck with me is the importance of communication. From lifting each other on the court to making sure everyone knows the time and location of the team breakfast- communication is key! The closer this group of girls has grown, the easier this has become! :)”


“Natalie Auker has developed into a true leader on this team,” said Coach Deloretto. “She can remove the emotion and see things for what they are. No matter what happens, she can remove the emotion and see what needs to be done. We've really relied on her to help lead this team as one of our captains. She's intuitive and the one to reach out to the coaches to ensure we see what's going on.

“Communication-wise, she's been amazing. So, off the court, those are the things I'm super impressed with. She's developed into a strong player on the court and continues to be an offensive powerhouse on the boards.

“She's grown in that she can control her frustrations and stay out there pretty much the entire game when we need her to. She's definitely someone who's going to be a leader in life. She continually shows us that she can do that.

“I know she's pursuing nursing, and I honestly think there's no better person to be a nurse than Natalie. She has so many good qualities, and I know she will excel at nursing. She's an amazing human to be in that role. She's someone you'd want by your bedside if you end up in the hospital. Coach G and I joke that we will make sure she's working before we go anywhere.”

What did Senior Night feel like (what did it mean to you)?

“Senior night was awesome,” said Natalie. “I loved experiencing my last home game ever with people I love who are both on and off the team. Everything was perfect. It was so meaningful and unforgettable.

How has the NPA basketball program influenced who you are?

“The NPA basketball program has made me stronger, and my love for basketball has grown even more,” said Natalie. “My teammates have pushed me hard, making me a better player. The team is so fun and supportive. It’s shown me that I actually am way more competitive than I thought!”


“Noe Rhon has been a huge asset to the team this year,” said Coach Deloretto. “She's really stepped up her game. She's definitely taken her offensive and deep rebounding roles seriously. And when we ask her to take it to the hoop, she takes it to the hoop, and she does a great job at it.

“Noe is such a strong person. Sometimes, I don't even think she knows her own strengths on the court. So, it's fun to bring that out in her and have her use it to her advantage on the court.

“She's also somebody who has a special way with people. She organizes a lot of activities for the team, like team breakfasts. Noe has been a huge asset off the court.

“She's fantastic to have behind the scenes, doing social things to help bring the team together. Noe is a strong person, and she knows what she wants.

“Whatever Noe decides what she wants to do, I have no doubt she will do. She's definitely going to kill it, whatever she does.”

Sports banner of Abby Short, created by Sean Openshaw Photography for the 2024 NPA Girls Basketball Team photos.
Sports banner of Campbell Blair, created by Sean Openshaw Photography for the 2024 NPA Girls Basketball Team photos.
Sports banner of Cloe Zeller, created by Sean Openshaw Photography for the 2024 NPA Girls Basketball Team photos.
Sports banner of Grace Schulz, created by Sean Openshaw Photography for the 2024 NPA Girls Basketball Team photos.
Sports banner of  Kyra Scott, created by Sean Openshaw Photography for the 2024 NPA Girls Basketball Team photos.
Sports banner of Kyra Wilkens, created by Sean Openshaw Photography for the 2024 NPA Girls Basketball Team photos.
Sports banner of Lizzy Tognacci, created by Sean Openshaw Photography for the 2024 NPA Girls Basketball Team photos.
Sports banner of Natalie Auker, created by Sean Openshaw Photography for the 2024 NPA Girls Basketball Team photos.
Sports banner of Noe Rhon, created by Sean Openshaw Photography for the 2024 NPA Girls Basketball Team photos.

Sean Openshaw is a Flagstaff photographer and storyteller. Sean combines photos, videos and words to help you capture what a moment means, not just what it looks like.