PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles’ Madison Cooke is a disruptive force for the Olympic League-leading Roughriders girls basketball team.
Cooke’s game is relatively refined for a sophomore.
A recent third quarter stretch against Kingston in a win in which she scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds along with eight steals and five assists, revealed much of what makes her game so enjoyable to experience.
Cooke is assertive and plays with confidence on the court. She expects to make the shots she takes, she expects to rebound misses on either end and makes plays defensively that help her team win.
The sequence against Kingston opens with Cooke attacking along the baseline and scoring inside. On the next offensive trip, Cooke finds a teammate for an open jump shot, corrals the missed shot attempt and scores while being fouled, absorbing contact hard enough to knock her down. Cooke capped off the old-fashioned 3-point play with a made free throw.
Cooke, wearing contact lenses this season after spending her freshman season in goggles that had the tendency to fog up during play, has court vision on both ends of the floor and the ability to outleap and outwork the opposition.
After sealing the 3-point play, Cooke follows up defensively by Pogo-sticking into the air at midcourt for a steal and a runout layup while guarded at the rim.
“Defense — it’s the most important part of the game and it’s what I really focus on,” Cooke said.
“In that press [Port Angeles’ mashup 2-2-1 defense], it gives me a lot of leeway in making the right decisions.”
And she transitions quickly from defense to offense, evidenced when she snags a Buccaneers bounce pass sent along the baseline, dribbles upcourt, glimpses the briefly upraised hand of teammate Eve Burke signaling for the ball and flawlessly fires a one-handed outlet pass Russell Wilson-style through four Kingston defenders to set Burke up in rhythm for a made basket inside.
“I told her when she came off after that sequence that it is passages of play like that inspire me as a coach,” Port Angeles coach Michael Poindexter said. “That effort on loose balls, the rebounding, getting the ball to other people in a position to succeed, and scoring herself.”
Entering tonight’s game against Olympic, Cooke is putting up 17.1 points per game on 52-percent shooting from the floor, and 9.6 rebounds along with 3.3 steals and 2.3 assists for the Riders (8-1, 14-3 and No. 8 in the RPI).
That’s plenty of production.
But with Port Angeles losing sophomore guard Millie Long, a defensive dynamo and the reigning Peninsula Daily News All-Peninsula Girls Basketball MVP, for the season with a broken finger, the easy takeaway is the Riders will need even more from Cooke to return to the Class 2A State Tournament for the second straight season.
In speaking to Poindexter and Cooke however, it appears Port Angeles will need continued inspired stretches of play as displayed during the Kingston contest, but no more than that from Cooke.
“I think that what Madi is doing right now is all that she needs to do,” Poindexter said last Saturday before listing her season averages.
“That’s all we need from her. I don’t think we need more from her than she currently gives us, and if she ever has that sense that she needs to do more that could hurt us.
“We aren’t a point-guard centered offense, the ball ends up in lots of people’s hands in our press breakers and in our offense. I think its more so that everybody else on the team needs to do a little more than Madi needs to become more of the focus. The more one-dimensional we become the more trouble we will have, so having everybody raise their games is what we will look for.”
Cooke admitted that losing Long will hurt, but said the Riders can’t dwell on what they don’t have available.
“We have to look past it and have all of us step up,” Cooke said.
For her part, Cooke already has stepped up this season.
“Her on-court effort and on-court focus is exceptional this year,” Poindexter said. “She has a great defensive mind, she loves thinking about defense. Not all of our kids love that, not all of our kids think in that manner.”
As the team’s leading scorer, Cooke knows how important her play is for Port Angeles, but she’s not the type to track her point totals in each game.
“Madi will never go to the scorebook or our stat program to find out how many points she’s scored,” Poindexter said. “She wants to know how many rebounds she had, how many assists she made. We’ve had to push her to be more scoring-oriented and attack inside and shoot from outside.”
Cooke’s athleticism and vision allow her to lead via example on the floor.
“She leads sometimes by her effort and how she distributes the ball,” Poindexter said. “She leads in a kind of defensive intelligence that we use as the core of that press. And she leads with her rebounding. She has a very good sense of the ball’s path and she just drifts into the right spot in middle, so sometimes it’s blocking out and sometimes it’s a great job of reading the ball and floating to the right position.
“Her rebounding focus and technique is superb.”
Cooke doesn’t mind learning about her game by watching film either, according to Poindexter.
“Game film, scout film, she’s one of our best kids at watching film,” he said. “She is good with dialogue with coaches on the bench, about what we are doing, what she wants to see and what we think.
“It’s rewarding to have a coach on the floor like that. A player invested in the why of what we are doing and I really like that about her.”
She’s worked to improve her decision making on the floor.
“Just seeing the game, adjusting to the game with my teammates, seeing what they do well and their movement on the court so they can get the open pass or the open shot,” Cooke said. “Making the right decisions for them and myself.”
That work isn’t always successful, Cooke does lead the team in turnovers, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed by her coaches.
“She is getting better at deciding when a pass will work and when it will not,” Poindexter said. “I think its been an adjustment moving from middle school competition to high school competition and playing teams like Bellevue, West Seattle, or Lynden. Madi is learning when passes aren’t there, and you see a little less risk-taking, which we are happy with and will continue to work with her on that.”
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]