Alicia Garcia remembers the feeling well. It still motivates her to this day.
Bettendorf’s then-junior post Kylie Wroblewski got the better of Garcia, scoring 16 points to go along with nine rebounds in what was a seven-point loss for the Muskies. Garcia, just a freshman at the time, got her first valuable but painful learning experience at the varsity level.
“I guess you could say they (Bettendorf) got in my head a little bit,” Garcia said. “I would just go sit out and tell myself I couldn’t come back from it. After the game my mom texted me and told me not to come out upset because she could see I was frustrated. She said it’s happened to her before, learn from it and next time take it to them.
“I think since then I’ve had the mentality of they can’t stop me.”
In the last three meetings between Muscatine and Bettendorf Garcia averaged 17 points and four rebounds per game on 49 percent shooting. Wroblewski, a senior, averaged 12.3 points and nine rebounds per game on 33 percent shooting.
That third game resulted in a Muscatine win, too, as the Muskies upset the No. 15 ranked Bulldogs 54-50 last Friday on the road. Garcia had a near double-double with 16 points and eight rebounds to help Muscatine finally break through in a close game against a team with a winning record.
“She’s really accepted the challenge of playing some of those girls that may have gotten the best of her as a freshman,” Muscatine coach Susan Orvis said. “I think one of the differences for us that night to get over the hump and get the win was she demanded the ball a bit differently.
“That’s what made me most excited, it was great to see her finish and execute.”
The potential has always been evident for the Northern Iowa commit, though she’s struggled with consistency just as players often do early in their career. She averaged just 6.4 points on 30 percent shooting in the Muskies first five games.
The result: A 0-5 start for a young Muscatine girls basketball team.
Garcia said it took time for the entire team to figure out their new roles and it showed early on as the spacing was clunky at times in the Muskies’ five-out offense. In addition to that, Orvis felt there was a learning curve for Garcia as she became more of a focal point for opposing defenses.
Since then, however, the Muskies are 6-7 and Garcia says her confidence continues to grow. The sophomore has reached double figures in 12 of the teams last 14 games. She’s averaging 11.2 points per game on the season and 13 points per game on 49 percent shooting in the last 13 contests.
Garcia’s three-point shot has been an asset for her and the Muskies, too. She’s shooting 29 percent on 29 more attempts than her freshman season already. That’s despite a slow start, as she’s up to 32 percent in the last 13 games. Orvis values interchangeable and versatile players on offense and Garcia is a perfect fit in that regard.
“I have a lot of options up there,” Garcia said. “If they don’t guard me I can shoot and if they do I can drive. Being versatile has a lot of advantages.”
Still, perhaps one of her most overlooked skills is her ability to block shots without fouling. Garcia, who is tied for seventh in Class 5A in blocked shots and hasn’t fouled out of a game, has the same amount of blocks (38) as fouls this season. Orvis credits Garcia’s maturity on defense and the presence of Kayla Scholz to relieve pressure on that end.
“Blocking shots is my favorite thing to do,” Garcia said with a laugh. “One of my AAU coaches always told me to work on blocking shots when the ball is out of their hands so I don’t get as many fouls called.”
The Muskies (6-12, 6-9 MAC) are averaging 43.4 points per game over their last 13 contests compared to 27.8 in the first five games. That’s all a result of the growing confidence of a young team, namely Garcia.
“We threw them all into the deep end being a younger program right now,” Orvis said of her sophomore-laden team. “I think we’re starting to see the benefit of that. I think the biggest part for Alicia is her confidence.”