The Gonzaga Prep girls basketball team had its all-time best finish at the State 4A tournament last winter, placing fourth.
Had it not been for a poor half in their state opener, the Bullpups (24-4) may have made it an all-GSL final with eventual state champ Mead (25-1).
Greater Spokane League coaches made it clear on their preseason questionnaires that G-Prep is the favorite. It’s easy to understand why the Bullpups are receiving much of the preseason attention.
G-Prep returns four starters and three other letterwinners. Point guard Hannah Caudill, who signed with Montana State, is the lone returning senior starter. The others are juniors Laura Stockton (pg/guard), Otiona Gildon (post) and Oona Harrington (wing/post).
Senior Wendy Gregory (wing) takes over the fifth starting spot, and senior Kayla Leland (wing), junior Lauren Weir (wing) and sophomores Tayler Drynan (g/w) and Shafalika Byrd (p) will see time off the bench.
Gildon, a first-team all-GSL pick a year ago, averaged 15.1 points per game. Stockton (12.7) was a second-team selection. Caudill (10.4) is the team’s best 3-pointer shooter.
“She’s really put in a lot of work,” G-Prep coach Mike Arte said of the 5-foot-6 Caudill. “She’s probably the most underrated player in the GSL.”
To make up for their lack of height, the Bullpups will pressure teams all over the court.
Stockton, Caudill, Gildon and Harrington played along with Mead’s Delany Junkermier and Ashlyn Lewey and Brittany Johnson of Ferris on the Sandpipers AAU team that won a national championship in a tournament in Boston and placed high in a handful of others.
“Our seven returners have made tremendous growth in skill and strength since the end of last season,” Arte said. “I’m very pleased how they came into the season.”
Arte knows the offseason experience was invaluable.
“From February of last year through July, our girls had a great run,” Arte said. “They step on the floor with a lot of confidence.”
Arte said he knows big expectations will be placed on his team.
“We don’t talk about state,” he said. “We talk about growing each day and the next game. If you take care of those segments the rest will take care of itself.”
Still, Arte said his team is playing for nothing less than a gold ball.
“And Mead, Lewis and Clark, Central Valley and Ferris are also playing for a gold ball,” Arte said. “Our league is the toughest in the state. Mead won last year, LC won three in a row a few years ago and CV won before that. We all strive to get to the end of the rainbow. There’s a lot of journey and a lot of road along the way. If you lose sight of your goal you’ll never achieve what you want to achieve.”