NAMPA In the photo, 2-year-old Bailey Pasta sits on her mothers lap, holding a basketball.
The ball is nearly as big as she is, and her eyes are bright with excitement. Theres something about basketball that has always made Pasta feel that way.
Its so simple, you take a ball and you put it in a hoop, Pasta said. I still havent figured out why its so fun to do that, but I just love the fast pace of it and it just kind of came natural to me and I always wanted to get better.
Pastas feelings about basketball havent changed much in the 16 years since that photo was taken.
Pasta (pronounced Pass-tuh) and her Skyview High teammates are certainly playing at their best this season. The Hawks are 16-1 overall and unbeaten in 4A Southern Idaho Conference play for the first time in school history, with three games remaining in the regular season.
The Hawks are ranked No. 1 in the state media poll, and are among the favorites to win a 4A state championship next month.
Anyone who knows Pasta probably saw her individual success coming.
From the time she was 1, the Skyview gymnasium has been Pastas second home. Her mother, Cindy Pasta, is the first and only varsity girls basketball coach the school has had since it opened in 1996.
This is their final season together before Bailey heads off to play basketball at Carroll College in Montana.
Bailey came to every practice from when she was 1 on. She was always in the gym, Cindy said. Day care was really expensive at the time, so I made sure she was always in the gym with me.
For years, little Bailey was the teams unofficial mascot.
She began sitting on the bench with her mother at age 3. By 4, she was engrossed enough to sit by herself at the end of the bench, passing out water to thirsty players.
Bailey always insisted on wearing a Skyview jersey, often with the number of her favorite player.
I remember some of the not-so-good teams taking her to the state championship game, Bailey said. I remember how (my mom) broke her tooth right before the state championship game.
I was super little, but theres just something about how the teams interacted with me and always involved me with them and never really left me out.
Bailey can recall the names and performances of previous Skyview teams as well and sometimes better than her mother. Many of those players have come back this year to support the pair.
It is just so fun for me to look back on all the years that Ive been a coach and see all these players come back and want to support me and my kid, Cindy said. It means a lot.
For Bailey, there was never a doubt that she too would one day play for her mother and the Hawks.
I remember the different teams and how their chemistry went and how I wanted my team, Bailey said. Always seeing the senior nights and being like, OK, this is what I am going to say during mine.
After back-to-back unbeaten seasons culminating with district championships in the seventh and eighth grade at South Middle School in Nampa, Bailey got her first chance to try out for her mothers varsity squad.
Freshman year was probably one of the toughest years I had. We talked about it. Are you sure you want me to coach you were my moms words, Bailey said. Im like, Yeah. Youve coached everyone else. Ive seen it. You need to coach me. I never regret my decision ever. Shes the most amazing coach.
Said Cindy: We got to a point (her freshman year) where during and after a game we could talk about it in the gym and then in the car, but as soon as we got into the driveway of the house and the doors got shut from the car, we could not talk about it. We had to make a room in our house dedicated for film only. We didnt watch TV in that room so that we could separate basketball and life.
Bailey earned a spot in the starting lineup as a freshman, and was voted to the 4A All-Idaho second team by the time she was a sophomore. The same honor followed again her junior year, accompanied by a second straight first-team selection on the all-conference team.
There was talk that I only made varsity because I was her daughter, but that (first) year I was just out there to play the game, to play the sport I love, Bailey said. I didnt care what anyone said. I was just there to play basketball.
Now, her devotion to the sport is greater than ever.
Skyview was good enough to be a state tournament team last season, but season-ending injuries to Leah Bonner and Ashlynn Smith cost the Hawks a second straight appearance in the tournament.
With both 6-foot post players healthy this season, the Hawks five seniors Pasta, Bonner, Smith, Marlee Marcus and Maryssa Santi are on pace to repeat the success they had as teammates in middle school.
The top three teams from the 4A District Three Tournament advance to state, and Bailey is determined to help her team get there.
The Hawks have won 16 games in a row since a season-opening loss to unbeaten Rocky Mountain, a 5A school, but theyre very aware how difficult it is to stay at the top.
You never want to overlook a team, because any team in this conference can beat us, Bailey said. Theres so many good teams out there that could come in and beat us. Everyday in practice we focus on which team we have the next day or that week. We come in and push each other as hard as we possibly can.
With three players who stand 6-0, the Hawks arent afraid to challenge teams inside. Its Baileys job to get those post players the ball. Shes done that with ease for years, averaging a career-best 8 assists per game this season and 14.5 points.
At best, Bailey and her mom have about four weeks left to play together. Theyre hoping this chapter in their lives comes with a perfect ending.
We have such good chemistry. We all want one thing. We want to go to state, Bailey said. Thats what our main goal is and thats what our focus is, and we wont stop until we get it.
Said Cindy: We are just taking one game at a time and making sure that we are getting better on offense and defense and executing, because thats whats going to get us there. If we look ahead, we are going to do nothing but jinx ourselves.
Rachel Roberts: 377-6422,Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX