Jefferson's role players key to state

The Jefferson High girls basketball team members know their roles. They have to. Basketball is a tall person’s game, but Jefferson’s tallest starter stands just 5-foot-8.

“It’s a big person’s game and we don’t play it right,” said Jefferson coach Mike Grady. “People say you can’t play with short kids. Well, we only know one way — we start four guards. Every single height listed in the program is a lie to make the girls feel taller. Our style of play is unusual, but we get the job done.”

Each player has her own role on the team and knows how to play it. It’s a brand of basketball the girls learned while playing with — and against — each other at Totem and Kilo junior highs.

Senior guard Michelle Morse, at 5-foot-6, is the team’s go-to scoring threat. She holds all the school scoring records, and is on her way to setting a West Central District scoring record.

“She’s our leader on the court,” Grady said. “She’s the silent assassin, because she doesn’t say anything. She keeps her mouth shut and lets her scoring do the talking. People know she’s going to score and do everything they can to try to stop her. When the money’s on the line, she’ll step up to the occasion.”

Senior guard Jessiye Clark, at 5-foot-5, is the team’s long-range sharpshooter.

“When Michelle is penetrating, then you got Jessiye sitting out there waiting to shoot the three,” Grady said. “It’s an inside-outside threat,

Clark led the South Puget Sound League in 3-pointers made this season and set a school record with 48.

“If she’s hot, you can’t leave her unattended,” Grady said. “She has the green light to shoot at any time.”

Mitzi Moore, a 5-foot-8 senior wing, is the team’s defensive specialist. She helps contain the opponent’s taller players and helps get rebounds.

“Honestly, she has been the key the past three playoff games,” Grady said. “She’s the defensive stopper in the middle. She’s got the toughest job. Talk about a role player that is so instrumental. She doesn’t score much, but you gotta have someone who will do all the dirty work.”

Against Skyview, Moore shut down the team’s leading scorer and Player of the Year.

“That was Mitzi’s job, to stop her,” Grady said. “What an incredible job. She’s a defensive specialist and a smart player.”

Chelsea Hunt, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, is the team’s leading rebounder and is another threat to make steals or the occasional 3-point shot.

“Chelsea is our biggest point guard, the quickest girl on the court and the most athletic person we have,” Grady said. “She is instrumental in our press and can jump out of the gym. Defensively, she draws the No. 1 point guard and she dogs them the whole game.”

Hunt is the team’s leading rebounder and ranks in the top half of the league in steals.

“She can score when she needs to, but she is an unselfish player,” Grady said. “If she’s not on the court, we can’t press.”

Jefferson’s height comes off the bench in 6-foot senior Amanda Foster or juniors Kezia Long, Kristin Woller and Ashley Osman.

“The real help recently has been our big girls,” Grady said. “All of them together have really done a good job helping us match up against these big teams. We need their defensive presence. That size in the middle is crucial.”

Senior guards Jessica Allen, Rachel de la Cruz and Vashti Tate rotate into the guard positions off the bench and reinforce the team’s quickness at both ends of the court.

“All three of them are very aggressive and help with our pressure defense,” Grady said. “They come out and give us minutes of chasing people. They give our starters breaks. Their main goal is as defensive stoppers.”

Scouting report on Richland

Richland is a fairly tall, but young team that won a loser-out game to make it to state.

Jefferson played the eastern Washington school in a summer league and was fairly successful against them.

Richland was ranked 10th in state and finished second in its league behind Kennewick.

Richland has three sisters on the team, and their mom is head coach.

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