I think it’s time to show some love to a couple of girls basketball programs enjoying great seasons in the smaller classifications.
So, in this edition of Post-Ups, my weekly blog notebook, we’ll look at the success teams are enjoying at King’s (ranked No. 6 in 1A) and Bear Creek (No. 3 in 2B). Both have high aspirations as they gear up for post-season play.
King’s hopes for bigger hardware
The tradition is strong at King’s, located just North of Seattle in Shoreline.
The Knight’s have captured three state championships, most recently in 2005-06, when they won back-to-back (the other title came in 1996-97). The just missed a three-peat in 2006-07, losing the championship game to Colfax, 31-28. They also have two other runner-up finishes.
So Dan Taylor knew the expectations ran high when he took over the program in 2009-10. King’s failed to reach the state tournament his first season, but has reached the round of 16 each year since.
Last season, the Knights reached the state semifinals before losing to eventual champion Brewster. They then lost to Chelan to finish fifth.
Those back-to-back losses didn’t set well, and the players back this season envision a different ending this year in Yakima.
“Our biggest thing is we want to finish higher than our fifth-place finish last year,” Taylor said. “We write our team goals down, and one of them is to win on the last day of the season, and so that would mean placing first, third or fourth.”
And even a second wouldn’t be bad either, the coach admits.
“Placing higher than fifth is our biggest goal,” he said.
Another item on the list is winning the Cascade Conference championship outright. King’s shared the title with Archbishop Murphy in 2010-11 and 2011-12 and finished third last season.
Three starters are back from last year’s squad, although one of them – 5-9 sophomore Kendall Adams – went down with a torn ACL in late December and is done for the season.
“She was playing so well,” Taylor said.
Adams was the team’s No. 3 scorer at 9.8 points per game and also average five rebounds.
But others have stepped up and King’s (11-3, 8-0) still has the Hanson sisters, Savanna (a 6-foot junior) and Daylee (5-11 sophomore). Through 13 games, Savanna was averaging 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds, while Daylee has been good for nearly 10 points an outing.
Savanna is the team’s point guard and also averages nearly three assists and three steals per game.
“She’s just been phenomenal,” Taylor said.
Seniors Julia Berenson (8.6 ppg) and Karly Hibbard (8.0) have helped pick up the scoring pace with Adams out of the mix, and the team is getting key contributions from sophomore Anna Parker (6.6) as well.
The Knight’s took a big step toward that league title with a 72-45 victory last week over Cedarcrest, ranked No. 5 in 2A at the time. Few teams score that well against them and may games are into the running clock (40-point rule) in the third quarter.
Defense is the team’s forte as opponents average just over 30 points per game.
“We’re very long and athletic and we get after it defensively,” Taylor said.
King’s started the season just 1-2 after back-to-back losses to Ballard and Lynden Christian. The other loss came against a Canadian team during a holiday tournament, by one point.
The team has won seven in a row since, and plans to pile up plenty more en route to those ultimate goals.
Bear Creek wants to win it all
The unbeaten Bear Creek Grizzlies are gunning for gold.
They have their sights set on the ultimate prize this season
“Our goal from the beginning was to win the state championship,” coach Greg Cheever said. “We sent them quite lofty and went to work after that. That was in the first parent/player meeting. That that’s what we wanted to go after, and it was going to take our best effort every day in practice and in games to get there.
“Bottom line, end of the day, if we give our best effort, that’s all we can do. If it resulted in a win, it resulted in a win. As long as they walked off the court giving best effort, that’s all we could ask. The final result is we want to hoist that gold ball in Spokane.”
That would be a first for the small school in Redmond, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Cheever’s name should sound to familiar to those in the basketball community, especially on the East side. He was the head boys coach at Skyline for two seasons, 2005-07, and before that was an assistant boys coach at Issaquah for six years.
When Skyline opted to go in a different direction, Cheever looked to Bear Creek, where his daughter attended. He was an assistant in the boys program for two seasons, then when Alan Dickson stepped down as the girls coach, Cheever switched over in 2010-11.
The Grizzlies lost in the regional round that season, then qualified for state the following year – but went 0-2.
Last year’s team had had a state trophy in mind, but took a big hit when 5-10 junior point guard Kristina Engelstone went down with a severe ankle injury with five games to go. Bear Creek was eliminated at the district tournament.
But Engelstone, who had surgery over the summer, is back better than ever and leads the team in scoring at 13.5. She also averages better than nine rebounds to go along with five assists and nearly three steals.
Engelstone has accepted a scholarship from Washington University in St. Louis, and Cheever has high praise for her.
“In my 15 years of coaching basketball locally, she is by far the most dedicated, passionate, hard-working basketball player that I’ve coached, boys and girls,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to coach some boys who have gone on to play D-1 basketball, who are very talented as well, but Kristina not only has the talent, she spends the time to work at her craft. She is very passionate about it and deserves all of the accolades that she’s gotten and the honor of playing at Washington U next year.”
Engelstone is one of four senior starters – including Hailey Morgan, a 5-5 guard who transferred from Eastlake and is playing for the first time since she was in middle school.
“She’s been a great addition to our squad,” Cheever said.
Darryln McDonough (5-6 guard) is the lone junior starter and is the team’s second leading scorer at 10.2 per game. Catherine Fernandez, a 6-2 senior, is close behind at 9.8 and leads the team on the boards at 13 per game.
Bear Creek is currently 12-0, 3-0 in the Sea-Tac 2B Conference with the first of two showdowns against No. 9 Crosspoint Academy set for next Wednesday.