PORT TOWNSEND — With a youthful core of talented players, East Jefferson aims to continue its climb up the Nisqually League girls basketball standings this season.
Traditionally, that’s how hoops teams from Port Townsend and Chimacum have had success, with a committed contingent growing together through the years and enjoying success at the high school level.
The Rivals improved from 2-12 in 2021-22 to 9-12 overall last winter, but went 8-8 in Nisqually League play to reach the team’s preseason goal: a district playoff appearance.
Aiming for upsets
“Last year we were able to win every game we should have won. That was an achievement in itself, but it was somewhat limiting mentally. This year, the goal is to win a game they are not supposed to win.
“If we could beat one of the top four Nisqually teams that we couldn’t beat last year that would be the type of growth we are looking for. And making it back to the postseason, that goes without saying every year for us now.”
East Jefferson boasts junior point guard Kay Botkin, a third-year starter who improved enough during her sophomore season to earn second-team All-Nisqually League honors.
“She continued to work really hard this summer on her all-around game and she’s developing into a really solid point guard and leader for us,” Rimson said.
Sophomore post Penina Vailolo will be a force inside for the Rivals after picking up varsity experience as a freshman behind the graduated Alyssa Vandenberg, a first-team honoree now playing in the NWAC for Centralia College.
“She can do so many things for us and it will be a joy to watch her continue to grow as a player,” Rimson said.
The 6-footer scored 19 points on 53-percent shooting from the floor and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead East Jefferson in a 51-45 season opening loss to Class 2A Kingston.
Senior post Abbie Liske is a returning starter and also checks in around the 6-foot mark.
Juliette O’Hara returns in the backcourt for the Rivals.
East Jefferson also had two freshman starters make their Rivals debuts against Kingston.
Teri Wiley, fresh off an honorable mention campaign with the East Jefferson girls soccer team, has a basketball background.
“She’ll be a two [guard] for us, and she’s an all-around extremely experienced basketball player,” Rimson said. “She went overseas to play on a tour of Europe and she’s serious about the game.”
Quilcene transfer Kateyn Riley played for the Rangers as an eighth grader last season, so she brings varsity experience and a Port Townsend athletic pedigree.
“I’ve been told her dad [Kolby of the class of 2001] broke and still holds some Port Townsend track records,” Rimson said. “She’s our most athletic player in a number of different ways, so it will be fun to watch her develop her basketball skills. She’s only been playing competitively for a year or so.”
East Jefferson Rivals
• Head coach: Lorraine Rimson. Fifth season.
• Last season: 5th in Nisqually League (8-8, 9-12). Made district playoffs.
• Returners: Kay Botkin (jr., G, 5-3); Abbie Liske (sr., P, 5-10); Juliette O’Hara (jr., G, 5-5 ); Penina Vailolo (So., P, 6-1); Dylin Shockley (So., G).
• Newcomers: Teri Wiley (fr., G, 5-7); Kaetyn Riley (fr., F, 5-9).
• Outlook: While young and light on numbers with 16 players out for the team this season, the Rivals have a talented and committed core that is already surprising Rimson with their offensive ability and defensive aptitude.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.