Alex Paquet wasn't always her team's leading scorer. She didn't lead her team in rebounding, steals or blocks.
But the Righetti senior always seemed to make the play her team needed at the exact time it needed it.
For that, Paquet has been selected as the Santa Maria Times' All-Area MVP.
Paquet helped lead Righetti to the school's first CIF Central Section title since it moved from the Southern Section three years ago. The Warriors beat Bakersfield, the defending Division 1 champ, 55-38 at Pioneer Valley High School on June 10.
Paquet scored 16 points in that game. She had 17 points in the semifinal rout of Hanford.
But her impact was rarely found in the scoring column of a box score. Paquet would typically defend the opponent's top perimeter player. She would handle the ball when the team needed it. She would lead the press defense and make sure the team was always on the same page.
"Alex played such a huge role in a our program over the last few years," said Desiree Hitch, Righetti's head coach. "She was the type of player that led by example and through her actions. She was a huge offensive threat — she could shoot the 3 with some serious range, but could also drive to the basket. I could always count on her for guarding the other team's best player."
But Paquet also found ways to lead her team. In a regular season game against Arroyo Grande in April, Paquet hit the deck time and time again, falling to the hardwood after trying to take a charge or sprinting the length of the court to track down the ball and make a defensive stop.
Time after time, she would pick herself up. Clearly fighting through multiple lower leg injuries, Paquet was quite literally sacrificing her body for her team's success.
"Alex is a dog," Malia Cabigon said of her teammate after Righetti stormed back for an overtime win over the Eagles. "I don't know how else to explain it. You can foul her as many times as you want, but she's going to keep coming back. Tomorrow, we're going to have early practice and she's going to want to be back out there when coach is telling her to rest for the game."
Cabigon herself knows what it takes to earn the All-Area MVP honor. She was named the All-Area MVP after the 2019-20 season and led Righetti in scoring once again this past season.
Paquet was second on the team in scoring with 10.8 points a game. She led the team in assists with 3.8 per game and was second in steals with 2.2 per contest.
Righetti's CIF title this spring was the program's first since 1978. Hitch agreed that Paquet was deserving of the All-Area MVP honor.
"Whenever we were in a close game, Alex demanded the ball and wanted to take the last shot," Hitch said. "She's just one of those players you love to coach because she will always give 110% and is ready to compete. She's a true competitor."
After winning the CIF title, Paquet said "I'm glad that we overcame all the obstacles that we had and pushed through everything and we came out on top."
Righetti finished the season 14-3 overall and went 9-2 in the Mountain League, splitting the league championship with Arroyo Grande. Righetti suffered a 66-36 loss to St. Joseph in a league game the week before the playoffs started. Righetti bounced back with a 49-45 win over St. Joseph the following day and then went on a dominant three-game run through the Division 1 playoff bracket, winning the three games by a combined 91 points.
"I'm just glad that we won. I don't care how we got it done, we won," Paquet said after beating Bakersfield.
The 5-foot-7 guard spent all four years of her high school career on the varsity level at Righetti. She averaged 7.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
The Warriors went 78-21 during Paquet's four years at Righetti. They went 40-7 in league during that time.
The complete 2021 All-Area teams for girls and boys basketball will be published next week.