Adna was one of three local 2B teams that competed in the state tournament in Spokane last March, just days before the pandemic swept the nation and shuttered high school sports across the state.
Sports have since returned, but the basketball landscape looks a bit different, especially with the chance of Lewis County and other surrounding counties possibly rolling back to Phase 2, which would put a halt to the high-risk sport of basketball.
For the Pirates, a team that finished 21-7 overall, 8-2 in league and lost on the first day of the state tournament, gone are a trio of now-graduated players: Payton Aselton (14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game), Tyas Pannette and Makaela Meister. What will be missed most isn’t their offensive and defensive contributions, but their leadership on the court.
Taking over those duties now are one senior, Ellie Sliva, and a trio of juniors, Kaylin Todd (second-team all-league), Faith Wellander (third-team all-league) and Summer White, who all played solid varsity minutes last season.
“Biggest thing for us is having this group of juniors step up into more of a leadership role,” Adna coach Chris Bannish said.
Bannish is expecting Todd to take over the point guard role after she averaged 6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and three steals per game last season. Wellander is a two-year starter and White started during the district tournament.
Sophomore Karlee Von Moos has also started occasionally and will be an impact player as well, Bannish said. Sophomores Brooklyn and Natalie Loose also look to be in the mix, with Brooklyn putting in a ton of time in the offseason and Natalie being a plus defender and role player.
“We do retain a lot of experience,” Bannish said. “We just don’t retain a lot of leadership. We have a slew of freshmen and eighth graders who are battling to get the rest of those spots, which is good. Hopefully, if everything goes right, we’ll have 16 girls out.”
The biggest thing, Bannish said, is having a roster full of kids who want to be in the gym.
And it hasn’t been easy for a lot of the kids, many of them have just finished up either softball or track and have had to pull double-duty with practices the past week.
Bannish worked with softball coach Bruce Pocklington to schedule practices so the seven girls who play on both teams could make both. Softball practice would start right after school, then those who also play basketball would head to the gym for a 5 p.m. practice.
“There are things that the outside eye doesn’t see, that we see,” Bannish said. “The Looses, Von Moos, Danika Hallom, Kendall Humphrey. There’s seven of them that were double-dipping last week, so when they came to school, they had their school bag, their basketball bag and their softball bag. They didn’t miss a beat.
“When people ask about what kind of kids we have, they’re great kids and they want to do well, and it’s not always that way. We have 16 kids that are all contributors in the program.”
Adna will begin its march to districts when it travels to Onalaska on Wednesday for the season opener.
The Timberwolves ended the 2019-20 season 2-18 overall under second-year coach Curt Atkinson.
The plus side is MWP returns three players who saw significant starting time last year in Emarey Hampton, Natalia Armstrong and McKenzee Mays. After that, it’s all up in the air for an inexperienced T-Wolves squad.
“We are very young, so we’ll have to see how we handle the speed and pressure,” Atkinson said.
The Tigers are coming off somewhat of a down year, going 8-14 and losing out in the district tournament.
They bring back three starters, all multi-sport stars, in Natalya Marcial, a third-team all-league pick, Rae Sisson, an honorable-mention selection, and senior Vannie Fagneress. Dani Tupuola also saw big-time varsity minutes and will likely take a starting role this year.
The Loggers went 12-11 overall and 4-6 in league in 2019-20 and bring back two full-time starters and two part-time starters.
Junior post Alex Cleveland-Barrera and junior guard Callie Lawrence (second-team all-league) both started all year last season, while junior Cierra Russ and sophomore Morgan Hamilton started a portion of the year.
First-year coach Alana Olson said she’s still getting a feel for the team with only a few workouts and open gyms, so far, and isn’t sure who will take over the remaining starting spot.
“I have a core group of girls that have been working hard in the offseason on their own, and I’m looking forward to getting them in the gym together and seeing who emerges as the leaders of our team,” Olson said.
Four starters are back from a Mountaineers team that went 18-7 overall and lost out in the district playoffs under fourth-year coach Brandon Eygabroad.
Junior Kaeley Schultz was a first-team all-league selection last season after being named co-C2BL MVP as a freshman. The 5-foot-10 lefty forward eclipsed the 1,000-point career mark in February 2020 and will be one the the league’s top scorers this season.
Also back as returning starters are Faith Boesch (third-team all-league), Selena Niemi and Isabella Holmes.
Toledo finished with the most impressive performance of any area team last season.
The Indians were the C2BL league champs, going 23-6 overall before finishing 1-2 at the state tournament, falling one win short of a trophy. In what was Toledo’s first trip to state in a decade, the Indians were the final 2B team left standing in Lewis County.
Gone is All-Area MVP and league MVP Kal Schaplow, but back is a slew of big-time contributors.
Senior Stacie Spahr is the Indians’ all-time career and single-season rebounding leader, breaking records that were previously set in 1989 and 1995, respectively.
The 6-foot post is a Pacific Lutheran signee, a second-team all-league pick and was also the team’s second-leading scorer a year ago.
In all, the Indians return four starters and 10 varsity players and will look to vie for back-to-back league titles.
Senior point guard Gracie Madill (honorable-mention pick), along with Marina Smith and Greenlee Clark were all starters last season. Emma Cline-Maier, Grace Tauscher, Vanessa Rodriguez and Taylor Langhaim all figure to be in the mix for crucial varsity minutes as well.
The Cardinals did not qualify for the playoffs last season after going 7-13 under fifth-year coach Tori Nelson. They’re hoping to change that this year.
Back are all five starters, including one of the league’s top players in junior All-Area and all-league first-team selection Addison Hall.
The 5-foot-10 post/wing combo led the county in scoring with 18.6 points per game and was the only player in the county to average a double-double with 11.3 rebounds per game.
Joining her in the starting rotation are Karlee Jones, Azhia Camps, Elizabeth Wolfe and Angie Gil-Munoz.
The biggest newcomer is junior Madison Vigre, a Mossyrock transfer, who helped the Cardinals’ volleyball team to their best season in recent memory and should provide another important boost to the basketball team.
The Vikings have to be feeling good about this season after going 21-6 overall and qualifying for 2B state last year, and now dropping down to Class 1B this season.
Under coach Autumn Moorcroft, the Vikings went on an impressive four-game run to make the district championship game for the first time in a decade before falling to Wahkiakum.
Back are three returning starters, which include sophomore point guard Payton Torrey, junior Hailey Brooks and Caelynn Marshall.
First-year coach Danny Cox is taking over a Trojans team that went 8-13 overall and 8-10 in league play last season.
Back are three returning starters in senior leading-scorer Annika Mason, along with sophomore Charlie Carper, who proved to be a force as a freshman, and senior Sadie Howard.