PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula College women’s basketball team is making a nearly complete fresh start, having players come from far and wide, literally from well north of the Arctic Circle and the tropics of Hawaii, to play for the Pirates this year.
The 2018-19 edition of the team will be young with nine freshman and just two sophomores listed on its roster. It features players from as far away as Honolulu and Barrow, Alaska, and a pair of North Olympic prep standouts. It also has just one player who saw playing time last season.
“It’s fun to watch kids from so many different backgrounds. Local kids, Native Americans. These are really fun teams for me,” said coach Allison Crumb.
Last year’s team had an odd season, getting off to a 2-13 start and seemingly headed for a last-place finish. The Pirates lost Casandra White and Olivia Williams to season-ending injuries before their first game and struggled to be competitive.
Then, Peninsula came together as a team and rallied down the stretch, going 6-3 over its final nine games to qualify for the NWAC playoffs, where it was ousted by No. 1 seed Umpqua. The Pirates finished the season 8-17.
“We don’t want to have any season start like that,” Crumb said. “I have confidence in our group, but we’re also going to have to have patience. We have one player who played college basketball last year. We’re trying to keep the mindset that this is a marathon, not a sprint.”
That one player is Ashylnn Sharp, who led the Pirates in scoring last year at 16.4 points per game. Sharp had to take a ton of shots to earn her points, though, shooting 32.7 percent from the floor. That was because as Peninsula’s only reliable outside shooter, teams keyed on her.
With Williams and White returning, as well as some other newcomers expected to contribute, Sharp won’t be asked to do so much this year, Crumb said.
“We have more pieces around her this year,” Crumb said.
“She didn’t have a lot of other shooting guards around her. She was our only threat. We’re looking to have more people to shoot [this year].”
Williams, familiar to Olympic League fans as a former Olympic High School standout, and White, from Modesto, Calif., are both listed as 5-9 guard/forwards and are key to the team. “They would have been starters for us [last season]. I’m really excited to get them both back. O [Williams] is ready to go right now.”
Crumb expects White, who has sisters who have played Division I college basketball, will not be able to play until conference play begins in early January as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
The Pirates will have two local products, Neah Bay point guard Gina McCaulley and Port Angeles forward Devin Edwards, both of whom are dealing with some nagging injuries at the moment.
With Sharp being the only returnee, that does mean there is going to be inexperience on the team. Crumb said a big part of coaching a group like this is instilling confidence in them.
“It’s a great group of players. They just need more confidence in being college basketball players,” she said.
Also new to the team are Kameron “Alex” Bowen, a 5-9 guard from Anchorage, Alaska; Danner Kuutuug, a 5-9 guard from Barrow, Alaska (on the northern shore of Alaska); Brianna Fitzgerald, a 6-0 center and freshman from Desert Pines, Nev.; Logan Luke, a 5-9 guard from Kalani, Hawaii; Leilani Padilla, a 5-6 guard from Liberty, Nev.; and Sunshine Vicente, a 5-3 guard from Roosevelt, Hawaii.
That’s two Alaskans, two Hawaiians, three Nevadans and a Californian joining three Washington women on the team.
“We have a few different types of weapons, I’m excited to use all of them. This really is going to be a team effort. We have all the tools, but none of them have ever played together,” Crumb said.
The Pirates have already played a couple of scrimmages with Pierce and at the Bellevue Jamboree. Their preconference schedule begins Friday with a game at South Puget Sound College in Olympia, then a home game in Port Angeles against Highline at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Pirates tied Highline in the Bellevue Jamboree scrimmage.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]