Annie Winton felt that certain something Thursday night at Escalon.
Whatever it was, be it the comfort of her shot release, her growing confidence or what she had for lunch, it all merged into a special moment. Winton, a Livingston High senior and the area’s most prolific scorer, leaped into “the zone.”
Livingston, en route to a 70-31 victory, pulled away with 21 points during the second quarter. But Winton accounted for 19, including five long-range triples.
“I felt any shot I take can or will go in. I didn’t know how long those shots were until saw them on the film,” said Winton, who finished the night with 37 points. “If the girl on me keeps her hands down, I take the shot.”
The Trans Valley League, Livingston’s new home after years in the Western Athletic Conference, is learning fast about Winton. The Wolves (12-7, 4-0) are riding Winton’s wave: 25.8 points, 6 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game. Winton introduced herself to Ripon, the defending TVL champion, with 37 points in the league opener.
Clarification: Winton resides in almost a season-long “zone.”
“She was three or four feet behind the line at Escalon. I sometimes just sit there in awe,” said Nina Garcia, Livingston’s fourth-year coach. “She’ll watch a game film at night and come back the next day with suggestions. I think she could coach, too.”
The target on Winton’s back grows larger with each game. She’s seen all types of defense deployed against her — double-teams, box-and-ones, triangle-and-twos — and has the bumps and bruises to show for them. Her nose has been bloodied three times this season. She packs her ankles in ice each night. One of those bloody noses happened against Gregori, but she refused to leave the game. She wiped her nose on Garcia’s black jacket and didn’t miss a second.
Garcia didn’t mind. Why would she?
“She is one of the most coachable kids I’ve had,” Garcia said. “Eighty percent of her shots are taken with players hanging on her hips or legs.”
When the physicality becomes extreme, Winton takes it in stride. She averages nearly half of the Wolves’ per-game output. Staying on the court is imperative.
“I try to keep my composure as best as possible,” Winton said. “It sets a good example and it helps me stay dependable as a leader. I think it helps me and my team. They support me and I support them. Those things very much embody what a team is and what it’s supposed to be.”
Winton has been a golf-basketball-softball force of nature — all at the varsity level – since she enrolled at Livingston. She even threw in soccer as a freshman.
Simply, she never stops.
Last fall, she qualified for Sac-Joaquin Section Masters golf. As a junior, she was the WAC co-MVP in basketball and also earned all-league softball honors as a shortstop.
“I never could see myself doing one sport. It’s more important for me to do more than one,” she said. “In golf, I’ve learned how to be super tough mentally, and that’s helped me in basketball.”
Her family no doubt has encouraged that mindset. Scott Winton, her father, is the Livingston athletic director and a veteran coach-administrator. He noticed Annie’s athleticism as a child in the backyard as she played with twin brother Cooper. He’s a junior and a three-sport athlete, not unlike Annie or Owen, the latter a Livingston freshman.
"Annie just likes competing for her school,” Scott Winton said. “She’s excited about anything she’s doing at that moment, but basketball is her favorite. She’s never had an off-season to get stronger. But she’s working different muscle groups and resting others each season.”
Winton has suffered only one significant injury, not long after the school purchased a basketball shooting machine. She wore out her shoulder taking shots last summer and wasn’t able to start her golf season until the second league match. Not surprisingly, she recovered quickly.
By the time she graduates, she already will have earned 18 units at Merced College. She begins each Monday, Wednesday and Friday by car-pooling to MC for a class and also takes other classes online. Winton is undecided on college, but one can bet she’ll stay close to home.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “I like being home.”
All in a day’s work for Livingston’s year-long star.
Ron Agostini was recognized for regional and national awards during his 40-year career with The Modesto Bee. He retired in 2017.