Basketball is back, and this year has the look of something special

By Casey Olson, Mirror sports editor

Are you ready for some basketball?

I know, it doesn’t have the same ring as Hank Williams Jr. belting out the football version before a Monday Night Football game, but the upcoming high school basketball season in Federal Way should be quite a ride.

Practice started Monday around the state and the first games will be played during the first week of December. This winter might bring something special on the boys’ side — a state championship. There’s also a distinct possibility that all four Federal Way School District teams will roll into the postseason, which has never happened before.

The best shot at a state title, most likely, comes at Decatur. The Gators and head coach Kevin Olson bring back a ton of talent from last year’s team that was ranked in the top five all season and won the competitive West Central District Tournament before flaming out at the state tournament.

Back are senior guard Marcus Tibbs (16 points a game) and junior point guard Michael Hale (10 points). The combination is arguably the best backcourt in the state.

Tibbs can score, pass and jump out of the gym. The 6-footer has also demonstrated the ability to will his team to victory late in games and isn’t afraid to take the final shot. Hale is small but ultra-quick with the basketball, and can also step back and hit a 3-pointer.

Freshman Jerron Smith will play significant minutes as well. He is the younger brother of Federal Way all-stater Terrell Smith. But the biggest question mark for the Gators is the eligibility of Darious Walker. Walker has appealed to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) for a fifth year of eligibility. A decision by the WIAA should be made before Decatur’s first game early next month. The 6-5 Walker averaged 15 points a game last year.

Federal Way will also field another talented roster and hope to return to the Class 4A State Tournament for the second year in a row. The Eagles lost Terrell Smith, but bring back just about everybody else.

The 6-4 Aaron Broussard (14.1 points a game) was a second-team, All-SPSL North selection last year and will be asked to do a lot this season. Guards Jeffrey Forbes (4.3 points a game), Andre Barrington (4.2 a game) and Isaiah Umipig (3 a game) saw significant time last season and should be much improved this season.

Thomas Jefferson and Beamer also will bring back plenty of talent from a year ago.

The Raiders (7-13 last year) have as much talent as they’ve ever had. Juniors Spencer Sydney (10 points a game) and Xavyr Moss (8.2 a game) are both long, athletic and skilled. Senior point guard Michael Hunter (14.1 a game) is quick and experienced and guard Jeff Baklund (7.1) will make a serious contribution. Jefferson started last season 6-3 before a New Year’s Eve party led to the suspensions of several key players.

Beamer rolled into the district tournament for the first time in the history of the school last season after finishing 7-7 in the SPSL South. The Titans bring back leading scorer Dakin Wanquist (12.1 points a game) and forward Dre’Vaughn Bentley (9 points), among others. The 5-10 Wanquist is one of the most exciting point guards in the area and scored in double figures in 13 games last year with a high game of 23.

The girls’ side is a little more up in the air at Federal Way, Beamer, Jefferson and Decatur. The Eagles were the only district school to qualify for the West Central District Tournament a season ago after finishing third in the SPSL North.

But Federal Way lost three of its top four scorers to graduation. The Eagles, however, do return junior wing Jacqie Evenson, who averaged 8.7 points a game. Also back is Brianna Bennett (5.1).

Beamer qualified for the SPSL Tournament by finishing in fifth place in the SPSL South with an 8-6 record. But the Titans lost leading scorer and rebounder Kiara Schaffer (12 points, 12 rebounds) and point guard Kelli Calvin (9 points).

The going might be a little tougher for Decatur and Jefferson. The Gators will be without Gena Woodke, who led Decatur in pretty much every stat category last year. The Gators finished 5-10 in the SPSL North.

Jefferson should improve on its 7-13 record with the return of players like Valerie Voellger, Sofia Malamura, Hannah Kiyohara and Jillian Rasmussen.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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