Frontier/Northeast A girls
If last year’s Northeast A League girls basketball state qualifiers Lakeside and Riverside reach the Tacoma Dome again, it will be on different weekends.
The pair, part of a three-way tie for the league title, are now in different classifications.
Riverside is now part of the Class AA Frontier League, leaving the NEA to the Eagles.
Are the Rams ready for change?
“Whether we have a choice or not, the answer is ‘yes,”’ said Riverside coach Chris Wren. “We’ve scheduled teams the last couple of years in anticipation so we have an idea what to expect.”
The difference, he said, is the more physical play of Frontier teams and more parity.
Lakeside is one of the early NEA favorites.
“We’re shooting for the top two again,” said Eagle coach Lisa Schultz. “With our style of play, we’ll give them a battle.”
Another team that should make inroads is Deer Park, which returns most of its lineup.
“Our goal last year was to prepare for this year and see what happens,” said Coach Doug Watson. “We expect to make the playoffs.”
Lakeside after third state trip
Although faced with replacing five graduated seniors, including league most-valuable-player Stephanie Guenther, Lakeside hopes to maintain tradition.
The Eagles have qualified for state for two straight years and last year finished seventh.
With a highly-touted point guard and a pair of athletic sisters around which to build, things may not fall off much, if any.
“I’m not worried,” said Schultz. “You’d think graduating five kids and the MVP, I would be. But with the kids back, if the support players play their role, we’ll be competitive.”
Carrie Waddell, a junior, is the point guard.
“Colleges are seriously looking at her,” she said.
Lora Jolley is back for a fourth year, and her sister, Brianne, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, came up last season to provide scoring depth.
Veteran Bernadette Rowse returns. Jessica Hatch, Kim Wilkins and Janel Long moved up from junior varsity to help with the state run.
Other jayvee players, Linsey Heebink and Coral Grubbs and freshman newcomer Nikki Petticrew, a second-team all-league volleyball player, round out the team.
“She’s a kid who’s very, very athletic,” said Schultz. “It’s a matter of learning the system and defense and playing with the kids.”
Stags hold two-edged sword
Deer Park’s girls basketball team is a study in contradiction.
The Stags return eight players from last year’s team which, said Watson, “is good news.”
On the other hand, he worries that inexperience will be a drawback.
“It depends upon how we play,” he said. “We can compete with everybody, but our inexperience hurts.”
Among the returnees is third-year starter Jaidean Watson, his daughter. Other returning starters are sophomore point guard Tami Michaels and guard Heather Darrow.
Also on last year’s team were starting post Tricia Gest and standout junior cross country runner, wing Jaime Stone.
Other letter winners are senior Josie Nedved, junior Heather Sims and 6-foot-2 sophomore Jennifer O’Brien.
“She will come along. It depends how quickly,” said Watson. “She will help us a lot.”
Others on the team are juniors Amanda Davis, Erica Ostrom and senior Shasta Tess.
A pair of freshmen, Amanda Oswald and Jessica Fielder, could move up as the season progresses.
Post play key to Ram season
Even though all-time school scoring leader Alana Carlander has graduated, Riverside has a back court to rival any in the Frontier.
“I really feel the succes of our team will be our post players,” said Wren. “We have a fairly talented back court. The inside players will have to play well.”
That burden will fall on senior Melissa Day, 5-foot-11 junior Tiffany McMurphy, and sophomores Abbey Wood and Keshia Shorts.
“A couple of those kids are pretty talented, and the fact we didn’t have the numbers in our junior and senior class enabled them to play up,” said Wren. “It should help us.”
His guards are sophomore Bernice Stime, a soccer standout and second-team all-league basketball player, seniors Jill Thompson, Lynn Whittiekiend and junior Nicki Snyder.
Juniors Jessica Olson and Nicole Lamarche round out the team.
“Finishing in the middle gets you into the playoffs. We’d settle for that,” said Wren of his first AA foray.
To do so, the Rams will, as usual, create offense through pressure defense and a running game.