SPORTS: Peninsula’s Taylor Larson named co-MVP; five other Pirates receive NWAACC honors
Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Peninsula’s Taylor Larson, shown playing against Skagit Valley on Jan. 12, is the NWAACC North Region MVP.
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Larson’s selection headlines a list of members of Peninsula’s women’s and men’s basketball teams who were chosen for the North Division’s All-Star teams.
Jesse Ellis, Karli Brakes and Jasmine Yarde were the other women’s team players who were honored, while Djuan Smith and Xavier Bazile were recognized on the men’s side.
Larson, a sophomore from Juneau, Alaska, shares MVP honors with Laken McClelland of Skagit Valley.
Pirates coach Alison Crumb said Larson is more than deserving of the award.
“Her dominance in the league was outstanding, and she was virtually unstoppable against every team we played against, so it was very clear that she should obtain that award,” Crumb said.
“When you think of most valuable, you think of the one player in the league you wouldn’t want on any other team, and Taylor is that person.
“She does not have off nights, she does not do things that will hurt you — only help you — and she is a consistent threat every time down the floor.
“That is why she is so special.”
Larson became the school’s all-time leading scorer this season, and on Feb. 13, she broke her own single-game scoring record by putting up 41 points on 18 for 21 shooting from the field.
She was sixth in the NWAACC with a 19.1 scoring average.
Unfortunately, Larson is doubtful to play in this weekend’s NWAACC Championship tournament at the Toyota Center in Kennewick due to a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.
Brakes, Larson’s high school teammate, received the North Region’s Defensive Player of the Year.
She was ninth in the NWAACC with a 2.9 steals per game average.
“There are very good defenders out there, but most refuse to play at the energy level of Karli Brakes,” Crumb said.
“She plays full speed the full length of the floor. Not only can she stop someone, but she can disrupt many, which is another rare quality.
“I’ve seen very [few] players who are willing to dedicate that much energy, focus and pride in their defense.”
Brakes also led the NWAACC with 6.7 assists per game, and she broke the school’s career and single-game assists marks.
Ellis and Yarde, both sophomores from Alaska, were named to the North Region Second Team, and Ellis was also selected to the All-Defensive Team.
“These guards are aggressive, defensively disruptive, and can score in multiple ways,” Crumb said of Ellis and Yarde.
“If they are getting stopped the first 15 minutes of the game, you can not let up on them, because they will stay after it, and continue to try and find ways to hurt you.”
Ellis averaged 12 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
Yarde scored 14.3 points per game, along with 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.4 steals.
The Pirates (14-10) open the NWAACC Championship tourney against Centralia (21-5) on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Trailblazers won the West Division championship and are led by West Region MVP and Defensive MVP Kristen Schoenherr.
Smith, Bazile honored
Sophomore Djuan Smith and freshman Xavier Bazile were the two Pirates selected to the men’s all-star teams.
Smith, from Little Rock, Ark., was named to the second team and to the all-defensive team. He finished second in the Defensive MVP voting.
“Djuan is a young man who has bounced back from two seasons that ended prematurely to show what he is truly capable of this year,” Peninsula men’s coach Lance Von Vogt said.
“I can’t say enough for his resolve as a human being and as an athlete.
“Djuan earning the runner-up for Defensive MVP and being on the all-defensive team shows you how he can change the face of a game without even scoring a point.
“He guards the ball. He gets blocks and steals. He defends all five positions on the floor, point guard all the way to center. His versatility is unmatched.”
Smith averaged 16.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game this season. He also had 38 steals and four blocks, including four blocks in the Pirates’ playoff-clinching win over Bellevue last Saturday.
Two of those blocks came in the final five minutes against Bulldogs’ big man Taylor Stracener, who stand five inches taller than Smith.
His defense became especially critical to the Peninsula’s success with the losses of teammates such as Salim Gloyd, Arnold Anderson and Daniel Sims.
“Once we lost three key defensive players to our roster I really stepped up my energy and awareness on the defensive end of the court,” Smith said.
“The work paid off with getting blocks, steals or rebounds at key moments of our biggest wins.
“To be recognized as one of the best defenders in NWAACC means a lot to me.”
Von Vogt said Smith is receiving a lot recruiting interest from teams at the four-year level.
Bazile, who is from Tacoma, led the Pirates in scoring with 18.8 points per game.
He scored 20 points or more ten times this season and reached 30 points twice.
“It’s a big honor,” Bazile said.
“A lot of credit goes to my teammates. I’m happy to be chosen, especially since it is such a select group of players that receive this honor. It’s a blessing.”
Bazile scored a season-high 32 points in a crucial come-from-behind 108-105 overtime win over Everett on Feb. 13, in which he swished two contested 3-pointers in the final minutes that helped Peninsula force overtime.
In Saturday’s win, he put up 27 points with 10 rebounds and three steals. He went 11 for 14 at the free-throw line, including a pair of free throws that gave the Pirates the lead for good.
“Xavier is a freshman who will be back next season, so that is really exciting to have an all-league player returning for another year,” Von Vogt said.
“You can just imagine how good ‘X’ will be next year.
“Xavier and Djuan are both worthy of their selections to the All-North Region [Second] Team. Both impact the game in multiple ways on both ends of the floor.”
Peninsula (17-10) opens play at the NWAACC Championships against Tacoma (19-8) at noon.
The Pirates beat the Titans 78-56 in Clackamas on Dec. 29.
Last modified: February 26. 2013 6:27PM