W.F. West boys basketball is facing the same predicament a lot of other teams around the state are stuck in right now: practices start Monday while some athletes are still playing spring sports from the previous season.
Bearcat baseball players are currently competing in the District 4 tournament and have an elimination game on Friday in Ridgefield, while track and field is having its district tournament this Saturday.
“Those (sports) are not done yet, so it’s kind of a challenge for us not even having the spring sports done but we have to start practice, make cuts and make tough decisions about who’s going to be on what team,” W.F. West coach Chris White said.
High school teams have the green light to conduct practices under summer rules, and the Bearcats have been holding open gyms once a week leading up to the first official practice of the season on Monday, May 3.
For now, until the players who also compete in either baseball and track finish their respective seasons, the Bearcats have been making due with the guys they have available in preparation for the season opener on May 10.
When the Bearcats do all unite, they could form into a fearsome bunch. W.F. West loses just three seniors from 2019-20’s team, which went 16-7 overall and 8-2 in league play, with a second-place finish in the EvCo. The Bearcats advanced to the District 4 Tournament before falling two wins shy of a regional berth.
The Bearcats return three starters from that team in 6-foot-4 senior dunk-machine Carter McCoy, who made The Chronicle’s 2020 All-Area Team as a junior; 5-10 senior Cade Haller, a second-team all-league selection; and 6-3 junior workhorse Dirk Plakinger. Senior Brit Lusk (6-3) also saw big minutes last year off the bench and will slide into a starting role.
In all, the Bearcats have seven seniors this year and White said there’s been a lot of dedication from players who weren’t previously in the forefront but could make a big impact this season and help fill the gaps.
Whalen Deskins, Gabe Cuestas and Cameron Bostwick are a trio of seniors who’ve put in a lot of work in the offseason, while junior Seth Hoff (5-9) is an electric, all-around athlete who saw some varsity time last year as well.
“They’re great leaders and they’ve put in tons of work,” White said. “Some of these guys who’ve been in the shadows on JV and it’s time for them to step up and shine. So we’re excited about them.”
Another guy who could make a big impact, literally and metaphorically, is 6-9 sophomore Soren Dalan, who nabbed a few cameo appearances for the varsity team last season before injuring his foot. Dalan’s mother played basketball, and his dad played football, for the University of Washington.
“That’s pretty good genetics right there,” White said. “He’s just growing into his body and he’s really coming on strong.”
White feels the 2A EvCo should map out pretty similar to how it did last season.
“Black Hills is very talented, Tumwater is very talented,” White said. “I don’t know anything about Shelton. Centralia and Aberdeen seem like they’re a little down this year, but I could be wrong. No disrespect to them. Everybody is really well-coached in our league, so that’s going to be something that’s real competitive in our league.”
For now, the Bearcats are just hoping they’re able to have a season at all. They are slated to host Shelton at 7 p.m., Monday, May 10 in their opener.
More than a dozen Washington counties, including Lewis County, are at risk of rolling back to Phase 2, which would be disastrous for local high school sports. A Phase 2 rollback would shutter basketball and wrestling, which are considered high-risk sports and are not able to compete under Phase 2 guidelines.
“We’re sure hoping we get to play and there’s no hiccups,” White said. “I get pretty nervous thinking about if we get rolled back to phase two and what that might look like. I just can’t even keep up with all the changes. It can start to consume you. I just want to think positively and hope we can play.”
The Tigers are coming off a 3-17 season under fourth-year head coach Kyle Donahue.
They return two starters from last year’s team, including 6-foot-5 post Benito Valencia and 5-foot-9 point guard Brady Hoyt.
Stepping into starting roles immediately are junior guard Brandon Yeung and junior Landon Kaut. Some guys who also look to make a big impact this year are senior multi-sport athlete Cameron Erickson and junior Jayden Pannette.
The Warriors are coming off a tough year, going winless at 0-21. Coach Derek Pringle, now in his second year, has no returning starters and will rely on a pair of talented freshmen (Parker McCaferty and Tyler Klatush) to lead his team back to a resurgence.
The Beavers are coming off a 6-14 overall season in which they went 0-8 in the 1A Evergreen Conference.
Seventh-year coach Joe Chirhart has one returning starter: Junior Takari Hickle, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound imposing force in the paint who was an all-league pick last year.
Newcomers who are set to play right away are junior Toby Seuss, sophomore Keegan O’Connor, sophomore Tristan Whitaker and senior Conleth Jackson. Sophomore Tristan Reddekopp, who is 6-foot-10, could also make a big impact.