Tigers head into new season with five returners


The 2022-23 season was a rough one for the Centralia girls basketball team, which won its opener before dropping the remaining 16 games on its schedule and going winless in 2A EvCo play.

Then, the Tigers lost five of the key pieces of that team to graduation and injury, setting them up with plenty of gaps to fill.

The good news for second-year coach Austin Danielson is that compared to years past, there are plenty of incoming players to fill them.

“That’s going pretty well,” Danielson said. “We have a full two teams, so it’s good to have guaranteed games, where a couple years ago we could barely put together a full JV.”

Gracie Schofield and Makayla Chavez are back as the lone returning seniors for the Tigers. Payton Baumel is now a junior, and Brooklyn Sprague, who started as a freshman last season, comes back for her second year.

“Those are definitely our most experienced players,” Danielson said. “We want out of them to be great leaders and to set the tone for our team in terms of effort in practice, attitude in games. Our seniors have been through it, and we’ve got a lot of young girls looking up to them. I know they’ll do a good job of that.”

Joining that quartet in the rotation will be sophomore Makenzie Erickson, who saw some time with the varsity last season but will factor in much more this winter.

“We expect we’ll see a lot out of her on varsity,” Danielson said. “She’s a smart player and has an awesome attitude, so I think she’ll be a great leader for us this year.”

The Tigers will open the season Wednesday with a non-league matchup against 3A Yelm, which went 2-9 last season, before hitting the road to take on the newly-combined 2B Raymond-South Bend side.

Centralia will jump into 2A EvCo play on Dec. 8, against Aberdeen. Later in December, the Tigers will host the second annual Tiger Classic, welcoming Lakes, Fife and Yelm to Ron Brown Court for a three-day tournament.

“Our three big things that we’re calling our core values are integrity, attitude and effort,” Danielson said. “If we have those things day in and day out, no matter how the game actually turns out, if we do those things, that’s something our program and our school can be proud of.”