Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News East Jefferson’s Alyssa Vandenberg drives to the rim while defended by Annie Wright’s Leah Kearns during a December 2021 game played at Port Townsend High School. Vandenberg, a second-team All-Nisqually League selection last season, returns for the Rivals.

Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News East Jefferson’s Alyssa Vandenberg drives to the rim while defended by Annie Wright’s Leah Kearns during a December 2021 game played at Port Townsend High School. Vandenberg, a second-team All-Nisqually League selection last season, returns for the Rivals.

GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: East Jefferson Rivals make a realization

Added commitment leads to success

PORT TOWNSEND — East Jefferson has made some steady strides under head coach Lorraine Rimson in building the program back to respectability in the Nisqually League.

This season the hope is an offseason worth of improved buy-in will help the Rivals compete on a night-in, night-out basis to achieve a team goal: to make the district playoffs.

“The girls bought into basketball more,” Rimson said. “They worked hard all summer. Their goal is to make the district tournament, and part of the work toward that goal we played in a summer league. We went to Silverdale and played bigger schools than we were and it was positive. We also had a few girls attend camps, and we had some community members volunteer to run through some things with the girls. And they played against our boys team as well.”

To get back to the district tournament, Rimson believes the team will need to win about half of its contests.

“We won two games in each of the last two years, so that would be a huge improvement,” Rimson said. “We’ve measured our wins in ways other than wins, and I’m hoping not to say that so much this year.”

The Rivals boast three returning starters in senior forward Alyssa Vandenberg, a second-team All-Nisqually League pick last season; sophomore point guard Kay Botkin and senior guard Madison Harris.

Vandenberg, one of just five returners on the All-Nisqually League team league-wide, will get a lot of touches for East Jefferson.

“She really worked on her fundamentals,” Rimson said. “It won’t be a huge surprise if she takes the ball up court and gets us into our offense. She’s working on being a three [traditionally a small forward], that type of player.”

Botkin worked on her ball skills during the break.

“Kay Botkin’s ball handling improved tremendously. She’s an incredibly energetic and enthusiastic player. She’s going to make some sensational plays for us, and she’ll have some mistakes that are typical for a sophomore point guard.”

Harris is entering her fourth season on the varsity.

“She’s always had the ability to take over games athletically and now as a senior with her head caught up to her body, we hope to have good steady play from her,” Rimson said. “Her shot has improved and her confidence in her game is improved.”

Rimson said junior Abbie Liske and Juliette O’Hara are likely to start for the Rivals.

“Abbie Liske will run the baseline for us as we will be running more of a five-out, motion offense,” Rimson said. “Juliette we expect to be a solid two or three guard for us.”

Freshman Penina Vailolo is an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-1 and growing.

“She could be a real contributor for us,” Rimson said. “She will start out on JV because we don’t really know what she’s capable of, but she will probably get varsity minutes pretty quickly. She played for us in the summer league, she was fairly green, but I think she’ll catch on pretty quickly.”

East Jefferson

Head coach: Lorraine Rimson. Fourth season.

Last season: 2-12 overall.

Returners: Alyssa Vandenberg (sr., P, 5-10); Addy Asbell (Jr., P, 5-10 ); Kay Botkin (so., G, 5-3); Madison Harris (sr., G, 5-8); Shelby Thiebeault (sr., G, 5-5) Abbie Liske (jr., P, 5-10)

Newcomers: Juliette O’Hara (so., G, 5-5 ); Penina Vailolo (Fr., P, 6-1) Elizabeth Storm (sr., F, 5-6) Rennie O’Donnell (So., G, 5-6). Dylin Shockley (Fr., G).

Outlook: East Jefferson players realized the potential for success comes with added commitment this offseason, adding a summer league schedule and improving through camps and workouts.

“I feel like our starting five are all worthy of their spots and when we add in Penina Vailolo who is constantly growing, she’ll be a sight for us,” Rimson said.

Competition-wise, Rimson said many teams lost a number of seniors around the league.

“The rest of the league could come back to Earth a little bit,” Rimson said.

________

Contact sports reporter Michael Carman at mcarman@peninsuladailynews.com.

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