Prep2Prep 2019-20 CCS Girls Basketball Honors
Half Moon Bay's Alli Dioli is the CCS Freshman of the Year. Courtesy of @hmb_basketball/Twitter

CCS Freshman of the Year

It’s a pretty rare accomplishment when a freshman is named a league’s Most Valuable Player award winner, but that is what happened when the Peninsula Athletic League – North Division named Dioli as its MVP after she was instrumental in leading Half Moon Bay to an 11-1 record and the league championship.

Now, after the Cougars won a second Central Coast Section Division IV title in four years, and with Alli continuing her stellar play in the section title run, and then in two games in the CIF Northern Regional Division IV playoffs that helped lift Half Moon Bay to 25-4 finish this season, Dioli can add to that award with another larger one.

“It feels good to know all the hard work I put in is really paying off, and if I keep working hard maybe I can do even better things,” said Dioli when told she was being honored by Prep2Prep.

Cougars’ coach Antonio Veloso knew he had a gem right from the beginning on a team with six of the first seven players off the bench underclass girls.

“I knew Alli would have success because of the consistent work she puts in on a daily basis, and the game of basketball truly rewards work ethic,” Veloso remarked. “What I did not expect was the consistency because she was a freshman. Most freshmen struggle sometime during the season especially when playing at the varsity level, from either juggling school and basketball, the intensity and having to compete against girls who are physically stronger and mature, and not only during games but in practice, or the physicality of teams especially from the ones who scout and once league starts. I believe she was able to overcome the traditional lows of a freshman because of her motor and desire to compete.”

That may be so, but a league MVP as a freshman and now a CCS freshman honor to boot?

“I think what’s impressive is the MVP of the league,” Veloso said. “At the beginning of the season nobody knows anything about a freshman but as the season progressed and everyone had her scouted she still did the things she was doing in the beginning of the season, and that’s what’s really impressive.”

Alli came right out of the chute with a 21-point, six-rebound, four-assist and two-steal performance in a season-opening 63-53 victory over perennial CCS power Menlo-Atherton-Atherton that put the Cougars and Dioli on the radar screen and was an indicator of things to come.

For a team to win a league and section title takes more than just one player, and Dioli was certainly not anywhere near a one-girl team. However, she led the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game, assists and steals at 3.1 and 2.1, respectively, and was second in rebounds at 5.8 per game. She led the team with 71 three-pointers while shooting 41-percent from outside the arc and 47-percent overall from the field.

Dioli was over 20 points six times and had three double-doubles with a high water mark for both points and rebounds in a 54-44 victory over Westmoor-Daly City when Alli went for 27 points and 12 rebounds.

In the CCS playoffs where Half Moon Bay was the top seed, Dioli had 15 points and five assists in a D4 opening round 63-25 rout of Carmel. She followed that up with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in 53-44 semifinal win over Scotts Valley. In the 50-39 title-game victory over Monte Vista Christian-Watsonville, Alli went for 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.

From there the Cougars were made the No. 8 seed in the CIF D4 NorCals and Dioli had 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals in a 49-47 victory over Caruthers. The season ended for Half Moon Bay in a 61-34 loss to a Colfax team with Alli finishing her freshman season with nine points.

After all was said and done it was still a great season for Half Moon Bay and for Alli as well. A big part of it was getting to share the experience with her older sister, senior guard Bella Dioli, who is one of the first players off the bench, and her father Martin Dioli, a Half Moon Bay assistant that starred at St. Ignatius-San Francisco and then went on to a stellar career at Gonzaga.

“I loved playing with Bella because I felt we played well together and we had fun helping each other on the court and cheering each other on,” Dioli remarked. “I also loved having my dad at my games and practices because I always want to hear what he has to say about my game and what he thinks I need to do better. We have fun practicing together and he makes the game fun.”

Being a freshman and being a star is odd enough but when your sister is a senior and a part-time starter is another oddity, but the sisters made it work. Alli led with her play and Bella was the glue that held things together.

“We were both good with our roles and I thought we did good playing together,” Alli said.

“Alli is not a vocal or expressive person but rather a person that let her work lead,” Veloso said. “She wants to compete and she wants to win so she fit in with this group very well. The best part was seeing her and the other freshmen get out of their shells which allowed them to show how good and competitive they were.”

“Bella on the other hand is your caring, inclusive leader,” continued Veloso. “With such a young group this was the type of leadership needed for us to succeed.”

Alli is the third Dioli sister to grace the Half Moon Bay program and Bella is the second. The oldest Dioli sister, Katherine Dioli, a 2018 graduate, was a member of the 2017 team that won the CCS Division IV championship. All three sisters were coached by Veloso who took the Cougars helm for the 2012-2013 season.

Alli obviously has some game and according to Veloso her best attributes are: “Her consistent shooting ability, her desire to compete which shows in her motor, and she doesn’t stop going whether she is guarding a guard or post or playing back-up point, she’s always going and moving without the ball.”

Those are the positives but even the best players have areas they can improve on, particularly a freshman.

“From a basketball fundamental perspective, it would be her on the ball defense,” responded Veloso on areas of improvement. “She does do a good job keeping the ball handler in front of her but she needs to get physically stronger so she can crawl up into her opponent while still maintaining her ability to keep her opponent in front of her and prevent them from driving by.”

“On the offensive side, her ability to change pace on the drive is slowly coming along but with more defenders crawling into her and being physical with her to force her to drive, she will need to be able to change speed and direction to consistently get to the basket,” continued Veloso. “On an all-around basketball perspective, sharing her joy to compete and play. She is definitely one that lets her actions speak but as a leader she needs to grow into verbally, charismatically, and enthusiastically sharing that joy to compete and play.”

What areas does Alli think are her best attributes and where does she feel she needs improvement?

“I feel my best attributes are putting in a lot of hard work and being confident in my shooting, ball handling and vision of the court,” responded Dioli. “When I’m on the court I also make sure to get my other teammates involved.”

“I need to improve on mental toughness and I want to keep working on my skills because I’m not satisfied with where I am right now,” continued Alli on areas for improvement.

Where does Alli see herself with respect to long-term goals?

“I want to play at a top Division 1 school and play in the WNBA,” said Alli, who carries a 4.0 GPA with Biology as her favorite subject. “To get there will take a lot of hard work and staying focused.”

Dioli has some lofty goals but to get there will take everything plus even more than what both she and her coach feel are areas of her game that need work. Her goals are some years away and she’ll have plenty of time to work on her game.

For her efforts this season, we are pleased to recognize Half Moon Bay’s Alli Dioli as the Prep2Prep Central Coast Section Freshman of the Year.

Other players considered for this award include Burlingame’s Ava Uhrich and Homestead’s Tatum Leuenberger

NOTE: We would like to thank our media partners, coaches, parents, players and fans for contributing photos for our all-section features. We salute all of the players that have made this a wonderful season of CCS basketball.