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Playoff dreaming: Four teams ready to roll
By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror
The Todd Beamer Titans girls basketball program made big strides last season in the South Puget Sound League South Division. The Titans finished the season with a 10-10 record and made their first-ever appearance in the postseason.
This year, Beamer is hoping to take another step forward with a goal of being in the top three in the SPSL.
What will make this team successful is working as champions every day, staying focused on our team goals and managing our time off the court as student athletes, said head coach Tiffany Rutter. We have girls who are willing to give their best at all times.
The Titans return three solid contributors from last years team in seniors Kaylah Scott, Mikki Akins and JoElle Austin.
Scott was a steady player all year for the Titans, averaging nine points and four rebounds.
Scott also shot over 30 percent from behind the 3-point line and 63.4 percent from the free-throw line to lead Beamer. She was a second-team, All-SPSL South selection.
Akins was Beamers third-leading scorer a season ago behind the graduated Kiara Schaffer and Scott. Akins tallied eight points a game. Austin averaged four points a game.
Newcomers Mercedes Sullivan, Taylor Winton and Elise Marshall should provide some depth for the Titans.
Beamer will be counting on its defensive pressure and transition offense.
Rutter says the teams that will be competing for the SPSL South Division championship should come down to Bethel, Graham-Kapowsin and Beamer.
Bethel won the division title last season with a 12-2 record and returns pretty much its entire roster.
The Titans finished fifth with an 8-6 record in the South.
The Eagles are hoping a return trip to the postseason is in the cards again this season. But Federal Way and second-year coach Danny Graham are going to have to make a run with a very youthful roster.
We are very young, Graham said. We are starting three freshmen, one junior and one senior. I guess it depends on how well they get accustomed to playing SPSL basketball.
Leading the list of returners for the Eagles from last years 14-8 team is 5-foot-10 junior Jacqie Evenson and 5-7 senior Brianna Bennett. Evenson led Federal Way in field-goal percentage (40.7 percent), rebounds (6.39 a game), assists and blocked shots. Evenson also was second on the team in scoring at 8.7 points a game. Bennett averaged just over 5 points a game a season ago.
Also back are seniors KeAnna Blackwell and Ivanca Frerichs and juniors Amanda Earlywine and Joanne Packer. Federal Way finished third in the SPSL North a season ago before dropping two of three at the West Central District Tournament.
The freshman group that will all receive significant playing time includes guards Brittany Barrington and Chantel Dixon and 6-1 Talia Walton.
I do not know what type of team we will have, Graham said. With so many youngsters playing meaningful minutes, its hard to tell what is going to happen. I do know this team works extremely hard.
The Eagles, like the rest of the state, will most likely be looking up at the Kentwood Conquerors. Kentwood returns a bulk of its lineup that finished 28-1 last season. Kentlake and Tahoma also have strong rosters and a good chance of having success.
The Federal Way Eagles will be counting on their quickness and solid perimeter shooting to score points and create turnovers on defense because they have a lack of size in the interior.
What will make this team successful is fundamental basketball, Graham said. Blocking out and rebounding and playing defense.
The Decatur Gators finished 6-14 last season in Kevin Rawies first season at the helm of the program. And the Gators are hoping to improve on that this year with a veteran group of players.
Overall we have more experience than last year, but losing Gena Woodke to graduation and Narei Kim to transfer will be a challenge to overcome, Rawie said.
Woodke and Kim were the Gators two leading scorers last season. Kim averaged close to nine points a game for the Gators. But the loss of Woodke will be even tougher to swallow. The 5-foot-11 wing was an All-SPSL first-teamer last season after finishing fifth in the league in scoring at 11.9 points a game and was also the best shot blocker with a total of 101 during the season. Woodke also led the Gators in rebounds (10.1 a game), steals (3.57 a game) and assists (1.21 a game). She is currently playing at Yakima Valley Community College.
But Decatur does return a group that saw plenty of playing time during last years 6-14 season. Junior Tenea Holcomb returns as the Gators leading scorer from a year ago at 5.5 points a game. Also back are senior small forward Courtney Goss, junior posts Jade Woodke and Sarah Isaac and junior guards Yonnie Coleman and Sarah Quantz.
This is a very cohesive group with some solid leadership and decent speed, Rawie said. Great group of kids.
The biggest weakness that Decatur might have against some of the other talented teams in the SPSL North is its lack of height.
Our success will be measured by how much we improve from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, Rawie said.
The Thomas Jefferson Raiders are looking to improve on last years 3-11 record in the SPSL North and seem to have the horses to do it. The Raiders return a bulk of their starting lineup from last year and also bring in a very strong group of newcomers.
We have the deepest team Jefferson has had in years, coach Jerry Krueger said. We can go 10 to 12 players deep and really not lose much on the court. The key for us will be how quickly our young players step up.
Jefferson will be relying heavily on three seniors and a sophomore to provide leadership and scoring.
Seniors Sofia Malamura, Jillian Rasmussen and Valerie Voellger and sophomore Hannah Kiyohara are back.
Malamura was a force in the middle for the Raiders. The 5-10 junior averaged 7.3 points and 11 rebounds a game. Her rebounding total was good enough to lead the SPSL North. Rasmussen averaged a team-high eight points a game, Voellger chipped in 7.2 a game and Kiyohara tallied 6.2 points as a freshman.
The four solid returners will receive plenty of help from newcomers Unique Taufaasau, Karen Carpenter, Keely Nelson-Rivers and Stacy Albrecht.
We have excellent depth and athleticism, Krueger said. We are looking to be in the top four in the North.
To finish in the top four would mean a trip back into the postseason a place they havent been since 2003. That was the last of TJ's two-year run at the state tournament.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org
Coach: Tiffany Rutter (fifth year)
Last years record: 10-10 (fifth in SPSL South)
Strong returners: Sr. Kaylah Scott (Guard), Sr. Mikki Akins (Guard) and Sr. JoElle Austin (Post).
Top newcomers: Soph. Mercedes Sullivan (Guard), Soph. Taylor Winton (Post) and Soph. Elise Marshall (Forward).
Federal Way Eagles
Coach: Danny Graham (second year)
Last years record: 14-8 (third in SPSL North)
Strong returners: Sr. Brianna Bennett (5-7, P), Sr. KeAnna Blackwell (5-9, F), Jr. Amanda Earlywine (5-5, F), Jr. Jacqie Evenson (5-10, G) and Jr. Joanne Packer (5-7, F)
Top newcomers: Fr. Brittany Barrington (5-5, G), So. Molly Campbell (5-8, G/F), Fr. Chantel Dixon (5-4, G) and Fr. Talia Walton (6-1, F/C).
Coach: Kevin Rawie (second year)
Last years record: 7-13 (sixth in SPSL North)
Strong returners: Sr. Courtney Goss (Forward), Jr. Tenea Holcomb (Forward), Jr. Jade Woodke (Post), Jr. Sarah Isaac (Post), Jr. Yonnie Coleman (Guard) and Jr. Sarah Quantz (Guard).
Top newcomers: Sr. Lindsey Bright (Post), Jr. Mckinsey Bennett (Post), Sr. Ashleigh Vincent (Guard) and Soph. Denisha Green (Guard).
Coach: Jerry Krueger (fifth year)
Last years record: 7-13 (eighth in North)
Strong returners: Sr. Sofia Malamura (Post), Soph. Hannah Kiyohara (Guard), Sr. Jillian Rasmussen (Guard) and Sr. Valerie Voellger (Post).
Top newcomers: Soph. Unique Taufaasau (Post/Forward), Soph. Karen Carpenter (Guard), Jr. Keely Nelson-Rivers (Guard) and Jr. Stacy Albrecht (Post).