If your holiday wish list includes a desire to read more about high-school girls basketball in the area, Post-Ups is for you.
This is the first volume of what will be a weekly blog notebook featuring local teams and players. It will run each Thursday throughout the season – although we’ll have to skip next week as I will be on vacation. The next edition will come out Jan. 3.
There’s no shortage of interesting topics, and I’ll do my best to spread out the coverage during the season. You should feel free to make suggestions, too.
For the opener, I’ve chosen these three: Beamer’s best-ever start, a check-in with Cleveland and a look at Bellevue’s (somewhat) surprising early success.
The notebook is a work in progress and the format could change some over the course of the season. For now, I plan to include impressive performances and keep a watch on big games.
So here goes…
Beamer — yes, Beamer — is catching attention
When I talked to coaches around the SPSL 4A South Division before the season started, one name continued to pop up: Beamer.
The Titans haven’t exactly lived up to their mascot name when it comes to girls basketball. I always thought Heather Sugg did a nice job with the program during her four seasons as head coach – her 2010-11 team reached the playoffs. But they never really challenged for the title in a division better known for teams like Federal Way, Emerald Ridge, Bethel, Puyallup and Rogers.
Sugg’s contract was not renewed after an 8-12 finish last season, when she had just two senior starters. At the time, she told me she thought the future was bright with 17 freshmen in the program.
She was right about that bright future, and it was a sentiment echoed by new head coach Corey Alexander when I checked in with him before the season started. I had the Titans in consideration as I put together the first state rankings for 2012-13. But I tend to be a little conservative with teams/programs that have yet to prove themselves.
So, they started on my watch list, and remain there. But they’re starting to make believers out of me. They are 7-0, 6-0 in the SPSL South – the best start in school history – although they’ve yet to play the other top teams in the division, Puyallup and Federal Way.
But they face a big challenge tonight against storied Oregon City – which won three USA Today national championships in the 1990s and currently is ranked No. 14. I’ll be there to get my first look of the season at the Titans.
Alexander, who was an assistant at Auburn Riverside the past two seasons, said he was excited to get Oregon City on the schedule.
“I want our girls to see how it feels to play a very seasoned team like Oregon City,” he said. “It’s more of a teaching game. This is where we want to be in a couple of years.”
By the way, the Pioneers will test two other area teams this season as well. They play Wilson (ranked No. 1 in 3A) on Friday. Then they’ll be at Showare in Kent on Martin Luther King Day to take on Mount Rainier (No. 1 in 4A) in the King Showcase.
Beamer is led by 6-3 junior Megan Huff, who averages 17.1 points per game and can score inside and out.
“She’s a very tough matchup,” Alexander said.
But one of the things that makes the Titans tough is that opponents can’t just concentrate on Huff. Three other players average better than 10 points a night – Quinessa Caylao-Do (14.7), Bria Rice (10.6) and Nia Alexander (10.3). And they’re all freshmen. Nia is the coach’s daughter.
“With us, it’s pick your poison,” coach Alexander said. “On any given night, any of our girls can go off for 15 to 20 points.”
Cleveland lives up to high standards thus far
Stephenie Wheeler-Smith sets high standards for her Cleveland girls basketball team, which is ranked No. 3 in Class 3A.
For the most part, the Eagles have been living up to them. They are 4-0 in the Metro Valley Division and 7-2 overall, with both losses coming to out-of-state teams (one in overtime).
“I feel like we’re where we need to be” Wheeler-Smith said. “The girls are continuing to grow, so that’s good.”
Especially when they are young. The team, led by juniors My My Ladd and Makayla Roper, has just one senior on the roster.
What hasn’t been so good is the lack of competition from some of the other Metro teams. The Eagles, who won the 3A state title in 2011 and were third last season, have had three landslide victories over the past two weeks – 76-17 over Ingraham, 79-5 over Nathan Hale and 55-14 over Chief Sealth.
“It’s been difficult in games that are so lopsided for the girls to remain focused on the things we need to work on,” Wheeler-Smith said.
Even last night against Franklin, the team that reached the 3A championship game last season with a senior-laden lineup, Cleveland led 30-19 at halftime and went on to win by 15, 60-45. Their toughest Metro challenge came from No. 9 Seattle Prep back on Dec. 5, a game they won 42-37.
Next up is 3-5 Bishop Blanchet on Friday, then the Eagles are idle until Jan. 9 – well, idle in terms of actual games. Wheeler-Smith is giving the girls a few days off (“We all need a break,” she said) but there will be plenty of hard work in upcoming practices.
“It gives us a chance to implement some stuff we haven’t been able to implement yet,” she said.
She added that many players are still figuring out what their roles are supposed to be.
“We’re almost to a point where everybody is understanding their role, but we’re not fully there yet,” Wheeler-Smith said.
She looks forward to a stretch run that includes games against top-ranked Wilson (in the King Holiday Hoopfest Jan. 21 at SPU), No. 6 Lakeside on Jan. 30 and No. 5 Holy Names on Feb. 1. Those should be just the kinds of games the Eagles need heading into the playoffs.
“I think it’s going to be great in terms of that preparation,” she said.
Who knew how good Bellevue would be?
If you came into the season wondering what to expect from Bellevue, you weren’t alone.
Lea Krautter, in just her second year as head coach, had her share of doubts.
“We’re really young,” she said. “I was a little bit worried at the end of last year, especially after we had two ACL tears. We were just in shambles a little bit.”
One of those suffering the knee injury was 5-10 junior Kate Holmes, who was the team’s second-leading scorer last season behind Kate Savard, who graduated. But her recovery has been remarkable and she’s able to play with a brace, averaging nearly 8 points per game.
Krautter’s main concern was how the freshmen and sophomores on the team would perform.
Turns out, most are playing like veterans for the seventh-ranked Wolverines, who are 7-0 (4-0 in KingCo 3A/2A).
Shelby Cansler, a 6-foot frosh, leads the team in scoring at 15.7 per game and Mandy Steward, a 5-9 soph, is second at 14.6. Tatiana Streun, another 6-foot frosh, averages 8.6.
“A lot of these girls have grown up together and they’ve all experienced winning,” Krautter said, noting they are young but confident. “They kind of just expect it and they’re just not going to accept losing.”
Steward nailed a clutch three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation to send Monday’s game against Lake Washington into overtime and finished with 24 points.
Krautter is looking forward to Friday’s showdown with Juanita (5-2, 4-0), which has won the past two regular-season titles.
“It’s going to be a really telling game,” Krautter said, “and they’re one of our rivals. It will be a good test for us.”
The drive to 25
If you score 25 or more points in a game, it’s worth a mention. And here are some local girls who managaed that this week:
– Taylor Farris of Renton nearly outscored Foster by herself Wednesday with 29 points in a 65-30 romp.
– Michaela Carew poured in 25 points as No. 9 Seattle Prep handed No. 5 Holy Names its first loss of the season Wednesday, 51-33.
– Nancy MacGeorge went off for a season-high 25 points Wednesday to lead Ballard to a 66-57 victory over Eastlake.
– Brittany McPhee poured in 33 points and twin Jordan added 20 as top-ranked Mount Rainier rolled past a pretty good Auburn Riverside team on Tuesday, 70-55.
– Federal Way’s Raven Benton racked up 36 points for Federal Way Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough against unbeaten Puyallup, which won 74-58. Marissa Miller led Puyallup with 23.
– Mekenzie Voellger of Bonney Lake hit 9 of 12 shots from the field and 8 of 12 free throws to account for her 26 points in Tuesday’s 55-34 win over Peninsula (she added six rebounds and six steals).
– Yusra Gharram dropped in 28 points as Curtis topped Emerald Ridge Tuesday, 54-47. ER was led by Riley Clark with 26. The 5-11 sophomore is averaging 23.4 points with two games over 30.
– Kristen Sturdivan hit for 25 as White River, top-ranked in 2A, crushed Steilacoom Tuesday, 61-9.
Game of Note
In a battle between two ranked 2A teams Tuesday, No. 6 Archbsihop Murphy edged No. 8 Cedarcrest, 52-50. Beth Carlson (18) and Madison Pollock (17) led the way. Cedarcrest got 22 points from Susan Kenney and 19 from Kailyn Campbell.