Jenilee Donovan is just one of three Peninsula College returning players from last year’s 22-5 squad. (Jay Cline/Peninsula College)

Jenilee Donovan is just one of three Peninsula College returning players from last year’s 22-5 squad. (Jay Cline/Peninsula College)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Pirates’ roster young with 12 freshmen

PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula College women’s basketball program is fielding one of its youngest teams ever with 12 freshmen joining just three sophomores.

The Pirates are coming off a 22-5 season. They made it to the Northwest Athletic Conference semifinal game against champion Lane last year, losing 92-90 in overtime with a sophomore-heavy team that included North Region MVP Millie Long of Port Angeles, who is now playing at Cal Poly Humboldt.

Despite the team’s youth, the Pirates were already ranked No. 3 in the Northwest Athletic Conference preseason standings.

That early ranking looks to have been pretty fair. In an opening pair of games last weekend, the Pirates were beaten by No. 2-ranked Columbia Basin 74-56 but actually outscored the Hawks in the second half. Against No. 4-ranked Walla Walla, the Pirates thoroughly dominated early, getting up 49-32 at one point and ended up holding on tight for a 57-56 victory.

In the top seven are some usual suspects. Lane, last year’s champion, is ranked No. 1. Another perennial powerhouse, Lower Columbia, is ranked No. 6. The Pirates, who had quite a rivalry with LCC last year, beating them twice, play them again in Port Angeles on Dec. 3. Another game to circle on the schedule is No. 5-ranked Green River in Pendleton, Ore., on Dec. 16.

In addition to Long, the team will have to replace powerful post player — and another North MVP — Itaua Tuisaula, now at Stephen F. Austin, and Tati Kamae, another starter and big contributor.

“Millie and Itaua … you just don’t replace them,” coach Alison Crumb said.

Crumb said this team is learning fast so far and she is enjoying them.

“They’re fun to watch,” she said. “We’re going to have a fun year. I’m excited by their work ethic and drive to get better.

“This is one of favorite groups ever. They never complain or talk back. They make my job easy,” Crumb said.

Returning players are outside shooter Talia Marini, who like Long, plays both soccer and basketball for the Pirates. Jenilee Donovan from Barrow, Alaska, will be a big part of this year’s team. She averaged 8.2 points and five rebounds a game last year.

Lupe’lani Vaaia of Anchorage, Alaska, is back. Sunny Pedebone, also of Anchorage, who wasn’t able to play last year, is back this year.

In addition to the four local players — Hannah Bates and Jelissa Julmist of Sequim, Allie Greene of Neah Bay and Kadie Wood of Forks — the lead newcomer early in the season appears to be Shania Moananu of Kalihi, Hawaii. She averaged 18 points a game against Columbia Basin and Walla Wall. Alexa Mackey of Melbourne, Australia, also looks like a big contributor, averaging 10 points a game in the first two games.

The team is Alaska heavy as Greene was in Alaska shortly after the end of last season recruiting. Other Alaskan newcomers include Amy Pilo of Fairbanks, Lainey Suaava of Palmer and Kiyara Miller of Juneau. The roster is rounded out by Ciera Tugade Agasiva of Kahili, Hawaii, and Maya Rowland of Shedd, Ore.

The Pirates take a long break over the Thanksgiving holiday and return to the court Dec. 1 for the Pirate Classic in Port Angeles, opening the tournament against Treasure Valley from Ontario, Ore. They play Chemeteka on Dec. 2 and Lower Columbia on Dec. 3.

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