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BASKETBALL: Huertas-Vining guides Eagles toward state tournament
Darah Huertas-Vining and her teammates sat inside a quiet locker room inside the spacious ShoWare Center last week at halftime of the South Puget Sound League championship game.
The Eagles hadn’t put up much of a fight against the unbeaten and top-ranked Mount Rainier Rams, who led 22-15.
The Rams’ locker room, which was located directly next to Federal Way’s, on the other hand, was anything but quiet. That didn’t sit too well with the ultra-competitive Huertas-Vining.
“We heard Mount Rainier cheering and banging on the walls and they were only up seven points,” Huertas-Vining said. “It was only halftime. Coach (Danny Graham) told us to sit in silence and listen to how happy they were. He told us to forget about the first half and play our game.”
The premature celebration was just the fuel Huertas-Vining needed. She came out in the second half on fire and on a mission to not let her Federal Way team lose for the second year in a row in the SPSL title game.
Huertas-Vining drained six 3-pointers during a 30-point Federal Way third quarter. Her 25 points led the Eagles to a 58-50 win.
The performance wasn’t a big surprise to anybody who knows Huertas-Vining. She is used to proving everybody wrong.
People have always discounted her performance on the basketball court, mainly because she stands just over 5-feet tall.
Despite her lack of size, all Huertas-Vining does is win, while putting up impressive numbers. During her four years running the point at Federal Way, the Eagles are a combined 90-20 with three trips to state, where they have brought home a second- and a third-place trophy.
Federal Way, who is 19-3 on the season, is shooting for its fourth-straight state tournament and will take on the Central Kitsap Cougars at 8 p.m. at Stadium High School Friday, Feb. 17, in the quarterfinals of the West Central District Tournament.
Huertas-Vining is a three-time first-team, All-SPSL selection and has scored 1,344 points during her career. She has also led the SPSL in assists for three seasons.
This year, Huertas-Vining is averaging a team-best 16.0 points a game. She poured in 13.3 last season, 14.6 points as a sophomore and tallied 8.2 points a game during an impressive freshman year.
“Ever since she was 3, she had a basketball in her hand,” said her mother, Shannon. “We had a little basketball hoop in the backyard and she would just dribble and shoot. Even the little boys were like, ‘we want her on our team.’ She was better than all the boys.”
Basketball has always had a special place in Huertas-Vining’s heart and is the only sport she plays at Federal Way High School.
“I tried playing softball when I was in middle school, but it was just kind of boring to me,” Huertas-Vining said. “I don’t like sitting there and hoping somebody hits the ball to me. I like the adrenaline rush of basketball.”
But the unbelievable success on the court hasn’t led to much interest from four-year colleges. Huertas-Vining currently has no offers.
“Hopefully somebody does offer,” she said. “I’m hping to go to a four-year Division-II or Division-I school. Whatever I get. I’ve talked to a few colleges and they say, ‘Oh, it’s your height. You have to prove us wrong and prove you can score and get to the basket.’ I think I’ve done that and nobody has called. It must be the height thing. But I don’t think height means that much.”
Huertas-Vining got her first recruiting letter when she was a freshman from Washington State. But things didn’t go any further with Cougar head coach June Daugherty because Huertas-Vining never grew.
“She said, ‘that’s kind of short for D1,” said her mother, Shannon. “There are a lot of people worried about her height. But she’s got the best basketball IQ.”
But height isn’t the only thing Huertas-Vining had to fight against this year. Before the season, Huertas-Vining, along with fellow Eagle seniors Raven Benton and Dyesha Belhumeur, heard talk about the team’s run of success falling off after the graduation of players like Talia Walton and Brittany Barrington.
Walton, the 2011 state player of the year, is red-shirting at the University of Washington and Barrington is averaging 10.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, four assists and three steals a game at Bellevue College, who are 18-3 on the year.
“Last year a lot of people though the main players were just Brittany and Talia,” Huertas-Vining said. “They didn’t see who else was on the team. So it feels good that we (won the SPSL title) and it would be amazing if we won the state championship. We wouldn’t be in their shadow anymore.”
Benton and Belhumeur were also first-team, All-SPSL South selections a season ago and are both averaging in double figures this year. Benton poured in 26 during the Eagles’ West Central District win over Union Wednesday night.
“It’s kind of sad,” Huertas-Vining said. “We have been playing together since I was in sixth grade. We just want to get the championship in our senior year.”