SPORTS: Girls basketball preview capsules for area 2A-/1A teams

Port Angeles (2A)

• Head coach: Mike Knowles (ninth year; 161-38 overall).

• Last year: 16-0 in Olympic League, 18-5 overall; reached districts.

• Returning starters: Jessica Madison (5-9, Sr., G); Alison Knowles (5-6, Sr., G); Taylyn Jeffers (5-11, Sr., F/C), Kiah Jones (6-0, Jr., F).

• Top newcomers: Macy Walker (5-4, Soph., G), Shayla Northern (5-7, Soph., G), Krista Johnson (5-4, Fr., G), Bailee Jones (5-10, Fr., F).

• Player to watch: Jessica Madison.

Madison has scored 1,306 points in three seasons and is coming off an All-State junior year in which she averaged 23.3 points per game.

With a basketball scholarship already in hand (Alaska-Anchorage), she can concentrate on reaching state for the first time.

• Outlook: The Roughriders have won at least a share of the Olympic League crown each of the past three years.

With four starters coming back from last year’s unbeaten league championship team, they are once again the prohibitive favorite.

The bigger question mark seems to be what will happen when the Riders, a Class 3A team the past four years, enter the 2A West Central District playoffs.

Sequim (2A)

• Head coach: Stephanie Lewis (second year; 0-20 overall).

• Last year: 0-16 in Olympic League, 0-20 overall; missed playoffs.

• Returning starters: Lea Hopson (5-6, Sr., G); Haleigh Harrison (5-10, Soph., F); Rylleigh Zbaraschuk (5-7, Soph., G); Lindsey Soha (5-7, Sr., G); Taylor Balkan (5-6, Soph., G).

• Top newcomers: Bailey Rookard (5-6, Jr., G); Demiree Briones (6-0, Jr., C); Melanie Guan (5-8, Fr., F).

• Player to watch: Lea Hopson.

The Olympic League MVP in softball as a junior, Hopson brings her same all-out competitive demeanor to the hardwood.

• Outlook: The Wolves come into the season riding a 42-game losing streak.

After back-to-back 20-loss seasons, the Wolves are hoping to inch their way back to respectability this winter.

“Being dubbed to be the last-place finisher, we have a lot to prove to everyone and we have a desire to prove that we can be competitive in the Olympic League,” Wolves head coach Stephanie Lewis said.

“We do have a young team but feel that the team will bond together much better this year and produce some ‘W’s.'”

Sequim returns five players from last year’s squad, led by a pair of physical wings in Hopson and Rylleigh Zbaraschuk.

“This year we have a lot of speed, which we hope to utilize in our favor,” Lewis said. “Our focus is defense this year.

“With our speed and spunk, we are hoping to surprise a few teams.”

Port Townsend (1A)

• Head coach: Randy Maag (seventh year; 57-74 overall).

• Last year: 4-12 in Olympic League, 5-17 overall; reached districts.

• Returning starters: Kerri Evalt (6-0, Sr., F/C), Bella Fox (5-11, Sr., F/C), Caroline Dowdle (5-8, Sr., G).

• Top newcomers: Jewell Johnson (5-4, Fr., G); Gabbi Hossack (6-0, Soph., F); Codi Hallinan (6-2, Soph., C).

• Players to watch: Kerri Evalt and Bella Fox.

The Redskins’ two starting post players were honorable mention All-Olympic League last year.

• Outlook: The Redskins bring back eight varsity contributors from a team that started to put things together near the end of last season.

Three starters and five role players — Kiley Maag, Kaile Phillips, Chelsea Whipple, Lydia Young and Irina Lyons — return and are looking to build on last year’s 3-3 record to close out the regular season.

“[It’s] always hard to say for us, but I would say we are improved from last year,” Redskins head coach Randy Maag said. “We will be competitive every game.”

Port Townsend may be the smallest school in the Olympic League, but the Redskins are hardly lacking in size with four players 5-11 or taller.

It will be up to the guards, however, to make Maag’s up-tempo offense hum.

“We will continue to push the tempo when possible, but we also have the size this year to play a half-court game if needed,” Maag said.

“We will be able to play both big and small depending on our match ups. The key to the season will be how fast our younger players can develop.”

Chimacum (1A)

• Head coach: Brad Burlingame (first year).

• Last year: 3-9 in 1A Nisqually League, 8-12 overall; missed playoffs.

• Returning starters: Cydney Nelson (5-6, Soph., G); Kaylie Castillo (5-2, Sr., G).

• Top newcomers: Krista Hathaway (5-10, Soph., F); Malorie Cossell (5-3, Soph., G); Lauren Thacker (5-9, Fr., F); Olivia Baird (5-5, Fr., G).

• Player to watch: Cydney Nelson.

• Outlook: When he got the job in June, first-year head coach Brad Burlingame talked about bringing a “revolution” to girls basketball.

The former Quilcene boys coach said he wanted to bring an up-tempo game to the Cowboy girls and end the sort of “boring” play he loathed in the past.

Burlingame will look to do so with a young and inexperienced roster shooting to end a one-year playoff hiatus.

The Cowboys promise to play a lot of man-to-man defense with full-court pressure. And obviously, on offense they will try to push the ball whenever possible.

“Despite playing in what is probably the best 1A league in the state, we expect to make the playoffs,” Burlingame said.

Forks (1A)

• Head coach: Dave Zellar (third year; 24-18).

• Last year: 4-10 in SWL Evergreen Division, 7-13 overall; missed playoffs.

• Returning starters: Taylor Morris (5-9, Sr., F); Brittany Decker (5-7, Sr., G).

• Top newcomers: Terra Sheriff (5-3, Soph., PG); Sassy Price (5-7, Soph, G); Kora Lotspeich (5-4, Sr., G); Eloria Brown (5-9, Sr., F).

• Player to watch: Who knows?

With many key contributors gone from last season, someone new will have to step up for the Spartans.

• Outlook: The Spartans are looking to rebuild after losing three senior starters from last year’s team.

Head coach Dave Zellar is hoping to build around a group of four sophomores: Terra Sheriff, Sassy Price, Jillian Raben (5-4) and Casey Williams (5-9).

While this year’s group is lacking in size compared to some of its other Evergreen Division foes, Zellar thinks overall team speed could make up for it.

“We’re going to have to move the ball up and down the court and make the other teams run since we don’t have the height,” Zellar said.

“We’re going to have to block out really well and just move the ball down the court.”

The Spartans, perennial state contenders just a few years ago, missed out on the postseason for the first time in several years last season.

If Forks’ shooters — Zellar has given the green light on 3-pointers to several Spartans — can knock down their shots, the young squad could turn those fortunes around.

“We’re going to be a team that can disrupt some other big teams,” Zellar said. “I think with this team . . . we can surprise a few teams even though we don’t have the height.

“I’m pretty excited to see where we end up.”

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