HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL season tips off in earnest this week with nonleague action for most but not all of the 18 boys and girls basketball teams on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Low numbers of basketball officials will mean later start times for Olympic League 1A and 2A home games here on the Peninsula with 7:15 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. starts scheduled, even for weeknight contests.
Olympic League road games on the other side of the Hood Canal Bridge will continue at the traditional 7 p.m. start time.
Why the change? The North Olympic Basketball Officials Association is thin on numbers this season and referees will be stretched further than usual.
“They have an official shortage and need us to bump the start times back to accommodate the officials getting to the games after they get off work,” Sequim Athletic Director Dave Ditlefsen said in an email.
Let’s be kind to the officiating crews we do have, if you attend more than a handful of games this season, chances are you’ll see many of the same faces.
Many of the talented, decorated athletes that populated last season’s Peninsula Daily News All-Peninsula Boys and Girls basketball teams have graduated and a sizable number are now playing basketball at the next level.
Forks’ Marky Adams and Parker Browning are on the Peninsula College men’s team. They are joined by Port Angeles sharpshooter Luke Angevine. Angevine’s old Roughriders teammate, Grayson Peet, a lockdown defender and underrated point guard, made the team at NCAA Division III Pacific Lutheran University.
Chimacum’s Mechelle Nisbet and twin sister Shanya Nisbet are playing basketball and softball for Olympic College while Port Angeles standout Nizhoni Wheeler is doing the same for Lower Columbia College. Neah Bay’s Tristin Johnson is shooting jumpers for South Sound Community College as well.
But plenty of skill returns, along with some newcomers that might contribute to another stellar season of basketball here on the Peninsula.
Here are some interesting story lines to follow during the 2017-18 prep basketball season.
Junior core in Port Angeles
Port Angeles did lose three quality starters in Angevine, Peet and Noah McGoff, who averaged 10 points and five rebounds last year and had games of 33 and 30 points.
But the Riders return junior guard Kyle Benedict who scored 10 points a game as a sophomore. Benedict really shined in the postseason, averaging 22 points in Port Angeles’ two district games.
Port Angeles also returns 6-foot-7 junior post Liam Clark who will be a threat down low on both ends of the floor, 6-3 junior guard/forward Garrett Edwards who can play inside and outside with his size and 6-2 sophomore Anton Kathol who showed flashes of potential in contests as a freshman last year.
And the Riders have senior leadership in wing Colton McGuffey, guard Easton Joslin and Andrew Borde.
Repeating last season’s district playoff appearance and adding a win or two would be a strong season for Port Angeles.
On the defensive
You can’t discuss Port Angeles girls basketball under head coach Michael Poindexter without first praising the team’s defensive buy-in.
The Riders rode their preferred defense, a 1-3-1 zone, to a league-low 37.9 points per game scoring defense average last season and a spot in the 16-team Class 2A state regional round.
Wheeler, the team’s best scorer, passer and rebounder, is gone, but a motivated group of players remain.
Cheyenne Wheeler, Nizhoni’s younger sister and a second-team all-league pick last year is back, along with fellow seniors Natalie Steinman, Gracie Long and Brennan Gray. Junior wing Kyrsten McGuffey was making strides defensively and will return.
Replacing Wheeler will be no easy task but having two 6-foot posts in junior Aeverie Politika and senior Devin Edwards will help.
Sophomore Mikkiah Brady contributed solid varsity minutes as a freshman last season and three freshmen who starred for the Olympic Avalanche AAU team have made the Port Angeles varsity in Jaida Wood, Madison Cooke and Emilia Long, Gracie’s younger sister.
Sequim boys should improve
A young core of Wolves struggled last season, winning one Olympic League 2A Division game and finishing 5-15 overall.
I don’t see Sequim faring as poorly this season. The Wolves lost just two seniors and the core of the team remains in Nate Despain, Riley Cowan, Kyler Rollness, Keeshawn Whitney and senior Payton Glasser, a 6-5 inside and outside scorer who posted per-game averages of 18 points, 6.2 rebounds 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals in earning First-team All-Olympic League 2A selection last season.
With that core returning, the Wolves should be in the hunt for a district playoff berth this season.
The Neah Bay boys have a new coach in Gerrad Brooks, who is in his second stint with the Red Devils after leading the team to the 1B state championship game in 2013-14.
Brooks will lead a team that qualified for the 1B state tournament, but lost a sizable number of seniors to graduation and Rweha Munyagi to a transfer to Archbishop Murphy.
But Brooks should have Cameron Moore, a high-scoring, rim-attacking perimeter player to build around this season.
Forks’ David Hurn slides over a seat into the head girls basketball coaching role after serving as an assistant last season under John DeMatties. DeMatties consistently praised Hurn for his help last season as the Spartans improved dramatically. Hurn will have sophomores Rian Peters and Jayden Olson as his top players this season.
Chimacum has a new boys head coach in Jeff Williams. He’ll have experienced juniors Issac Purser, Cole Dotson and Kai Dickerson and senior Peyton Hundley back in his initial season in charge of the Cowboys.