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Player Sheriene Arikat takes milestone prep career to Occidental College

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Just as she did on the basketball court for four years at Petaluma High School, Sheriene Arikat has thoughtfully planned her next step in education and sports.

She will attend Occidental College in Los Angeles, study kinesiology, get a degree in sports medicine, eventually travel with a sports team as a trainer and nutritionist, and, of course, play basketball.

One of the reasons she chose Occidental is because the small D3 school offers an opportunity to play the sport that she loves right away.

“I loved the campus and it is still close enough I can spend time with my family,” she said. But basketball is a big part of her decision as she continues a career that began when she was a fifth grader and led her to be the Vine Valley Athletic League Co-Most Valuable Player in her senior season.

She completed a spectacular Petaluma career by leading her team with a 13.3 scoring average, grabbing 149 rebounds, dishing off 33 assists and making 62 steals, more than twice as many as any other player on the team.

Arikat spent her freshman year on the junior varsity team, an assignment she said prepared her for her next three years on the varsity.

“I loved every minute on the junior varsity,” she said. “My confidence grew immensely. The change from JV to varsity wasn’t bad. I enjoyed my sophomore year, and I began to develop a sense of leadership.”

That led to her junior and senior seasons when she blossomed into one of the best players in the newly founded VVAL.

Last season was especially pleasurable for Arikat as she was reunited with new Petaluma coach, Sophie Bihn, who had coached her as an assistant in the eighth grade at Petaluma Junior High.

The T-Girls were 12-14 in the 2018-19 season. This winter, with Bihn coaching and Arikat among the leaders, they finished 18-8, were second in the VVAL and reached the North Coast Section playoffs.

It was a roller-coaster season that ended on a high note. Playing a competively light pre-league schedule, the T-Girls won 10 of 12 games. But, after winning their first two league games, they lost three out of four, including one to rival and league champion Casa Grande and one to last-place Justin-Siena.

“That was terrible,” Arikat recalled of the Justin-Siena game. “The next practice all we did was focus on team bonding.”

It worked. Refocused, the T-Girls won their final five league games to take second place. “It was really fun to be a part of that,” Arikat said. “We were focused on building relationships as a team.”

Included in that stretch was a 49-44 win over Casa Grande, the only loss suffered by the Gauchos in their run to the VVAL championship.

“That was one of the best days of my life,” Arikat said. It was made even more special by a basket that recorded the senior’s 1,000th point of her Petaluma career. “It can’t get any better than that game. We believed in ourselves,” she said.

Arikat finished her Petaluma varsity career with 1,064 points.

It is hard to define Arikat’s position for the T-Girls. She often played the post, but her ball handling skills allowed her to step back and play guard, a position the 5-6 senior will likely play in college. “I did whatever Sophie needed me to do,” the player explained. “I was all over the place.”

Adept at driving fearlessly to the hoop, she worked tirelessly in the gym to become a good long-range shooter as well. Hard work also helped her develop into a reliable rebounder, second on the team to Rose Nevin, who Arikat called, “The best rebounder ever.”

Now, she is ready to take her skills to the next level, leaving Petaluma with a legacy of more than 1,000 points, a lot of memories and the hurt of missing her last semester in high school.

“It is so disappointing,” she said. “I was looking forward to the prom, graduation, grad night. I also miss the spring sports. I feel sorry for the players who missed out on their last season.”

Arikat is the daughter of Michael and Pasima Arikat. She has a brother, Ramsey, who is a sophomore at Petaluma High and two younger twin siblings, brother Salim and sister Nadiene.

When she has spare time, she enjoys baking, working out and reading.

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