After capping last year with a Northwest Athletic Conference championship, the first for CC Spokane since 1984, Bruce Johnson thought he would at least see a few of his strong freshmen back this season to fight for another title.
Instead, the Sasquatch head coach got only two returning sophomores – Shaye Swannack and Lauren French. French saw limited court time last season, so Johnson is primarily looking to Swannack, a guard on last year’s starting squad, to guide the majority of newbies.
“It’s just one of those years where you want to have that perfect six-six flop – six freshmen coming in and six sophomores (leaving) – and it just didn’t work out this year,” Johnson said.
Johnson lost quite a few of his star sophomores last season, including guard Brianna King (now at Montana Western), who was named MVP of the conference tournament after scoring 31 points in the championship game and a school-record 46 in the quarterfinals.
The Sasquatch also said goodbye to 5-foot-9 guard Imani Guillory, who averaged six points last season and hit the game-winning shot in the final seconds of the championship game.
Johnson looked to last year’s freshmen to take over, but few stepped up this season. Three of those six freshmen decided to drop college athletics and transfer to four-year universities in Washington. Molly Webster, a 5-7 wing, also stepped away from the court to become a goalkeeper for Whitworth soccer.
Johnson currently has eight freshmen on his 10-player roster, a much different mix than last year’s deep roster and starting crew that featured all sophomores, with the exception of Swannack.
Swannack will step into starting point-guard role. It’s currently a tossup between five freshmen as to who will fill the remaining four starting spots on the floor.
Freshmen guards Shania Graham, a 1B Player of the Year from Republic, Washington, and Syndee Mongeon, from Cashmere, Washington, will likely start with Swannack.
The Sasquatch have some options between a handful of quick bigs who can also run the perimeter and shoot from distance – a lucky break for Johnson, who likes to run the four-out, one-in motion often.
Freshman 5-10 forward Marissa Blair, of Arlington, Washington, is a threat inside but is not afraid to step out for a longer shot.
“She’s just a scorer,” Johnson said. “She can shoot 3s, she can post up. She’s pretty versatile.”
Jessica Olson will also bring some power inside. The 5-11 freshman forward, who guided Moses Lake to fifth place in the State 4A tournament last season, can work the perimeter and drive to the basket.
“She can run and she can finish at the rim. She’s very athletic,” Johnson said. “She also has 3-point range. I mean, she can shoot the ball.”
Rose Mongoyak, a center from Barrow, Alaska, is the only player at CC Spokane to break 6-0, measuring up to a long 6-1.
Surprisingly, Mongoyak wasn’t afraid to step behind the arc in high school and take the occasional long shot. But her strength remains inside, using her size and quick feet to deliver heavy pressure at the rim.
The Sasquatch will be a small crew, not just in bodies, but in height. Johnson said their size just means they will be quick, giving them more opportunities to work on improving the press this year.
“It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play,” Mongoyak said. “I think we’re pretty tough.”
Head coach Chris Carlson had quite a steep hill to climb last season.
The Cardinals’ young team of 10 freshmen and only two sophomores suffered season-ending injuries and fell in the first day of the NWAC tournament.
“It was a tough year, it was just too much,” Carlson said. But this season, “we have six returners, a nice transfer, and then I think our freshmen class is really solid.”
Sophomore guards Cierra Dvorak and Whitney Meier will likely return to their starting roles.
Dvorak, a Lake City High alumna, was an all-league player last year and led NIC in nearly every statistical category. She was outnumbered in 3-pointers by her former Timberwolves teammate Whitney Meier, who led the team with 61 3s.
“They know each other well. They’re a really good guard combination and they’re both very good basketball players,” Carlson said.
Redshirt sophomore Ronnie Harris, a 5-foot-9 guard from Billings, is Carlson’s lone transfer this year. Harris came to NIC after spending two years in the basketball program at Rocky Mountain College.
Gia Sorn, a 6-2 returning sophomore, and 6-0 freshman Sydney Hovde, from Columbia Falls, Montana, will bring some needed height and power to the post this year.
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