By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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The girls from Port Angeles and Sequim who make up the basketball team are starting sixth grade this week, but Marvelle is already thinking about what they might accomplish in the ninth through 12th grades.
“If, and that's of course a legitimately big if, these [Port Angeles] girls stay together, continue to work hard, maintain their amazingly positive attitudes, have the support of their parents . . . I see no reason these kids can't legitimately vie for a girls state basketball title in high school,” Marvelle said.
“For Kalli Wiker, Sequim will be getting an absolute superstar when she gets to high school.
“I know that is a mouthful and that they're only going into the sixth grade, but this group is incredibly special. We have athletes, relentless workers and leaders across the board.
“We have a girls that still literally run from their parents' car to get into the gym. That type of enthusiasm is really what it's all about.
“This has to be fun and they are having fun.”
Wiker is currently the Avalanche's only player from Sequim, earning her the nickname of “Lone Wolf” from Marvelle.
Her current Avalanche teammates are all from Port Angeles: Emilia Long, Jaida Wood, Camille Stensgard, Myra Walker, Hannah Reetz and the latest addition to the roster, Madison Cooke.
The Avalanche will hold a tryout for players from throughout the North Olympic Peninsula on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Peninsula College.
As fifth-graders in their first full season together, the Avalanche participated in 11 tournaments and compiled a 39-5 win-loss record.
They made the finals in eight tournaments, winning six championships.
The two championship game losses came to a sixth-grade team by two points and the No. 1 fifth-grade team in the state, EBC of Kirkland, by five points.
“Playing a lot of hard teams and getting to get good training and stuff,” Long, the team's leading scorer, said was her favorite part of the fifth-grade season.
“It was really fun.”
In 44 total games, the Avalanche scored 1,682 points and allowed 778 points.
“We averaged over 37 points a game and gave up just a little over 17 points a game. We were very solid defensively,” Marvelle said.
“In our 39 wins we averaged over 40 points a game, while our opponents averaged a shade over 16 points per game. Our average margin of victory was 24 points.”
The Avalanche played in tournaments last season in Ferndale, Mount Vernon, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley, Bellingham, Renton, Auburn, Kirkland, Poulsbo, Tumwater, Bonney Lake, Covington and Seaside, Ore.
“Last season, what I liked was playing with my friends and just the amazing coaches we have and playing a bunch of different people and traveling different places,” Wood said.
Their first tournament of the sixth-grade season will be the Seattle Youth Basketball Tourney in Issaquah in October.
This season the Avalanche are planning to play in the state AAU championship in Spokane, the multi-state Best in the West championships in Yakima, the End Of Trail tournament in Oregon, which is another multi-state tournament.
“We have a goal of reaching the AAU Nationals in Las Vegas next July,” Marvelle said.
“I believe we have the talent to do very well in all of those tournaments.”
The Avalanche most recently played against the Puyallup Rams at KeyArena at the end of July prior to a Seattle Storm game.
While at KeyArena, the players ran into former Storm player Tina Thompson, who retired in 2013 as the WNBA's all-time points leader.
“She said, 'I'm guessing you guys are basketball players, and just keep up the good work,'” Wood said of meeting Thompson.
Marvelle passed on coaching duties for that game to Alison Crumb, the head women's basketball coach at Peninsula College.
Led by Wood's 10 points and 12 rebounds, the Avalanche defeated the Rams 32-26.
The Avalanche have formed a strong relationship with the Peninsula College women's team.
Not only is Pirates assistant Mike Knowles also an Avalanche assistant coach, but the Avalanche players each have a Peninsula player as their Pirate Pal.
The Avalanche also have worked with well-known skills coach Chris Hyppa a few times.
“They are a hard-working group of girls who are very enthusiastic about getting better,” Hyppa said.
“They have a special chemistry that allows them to challenge each other.”
The Avalanche will be looking to add three players from Sunday's tryout to offset the loss of the four Neah Bay players who decided to form their own team closer to home.
Prospects should wear a T-shirt, shorts and basketball shoes. Basketballs will be provided for those who need them.
The tryout will be held in the Peninsula College gym on the Port Angeles campus.
For more information about the tryout, phone Marvelle at 360-460-4746.
Sports Editor Lee Horton can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.