It could be another interesting winter for Colville High girlâ€™s basketball.
The Indians, who finished 17-5 last season, lost five key seniors off a veteran club, but they return a solid nucleus of players and some promising newcomers that could pull some surprises in the competitive Northeast A League this winter.
Colville also returns a couple of familiar names and faces that have been actively involved with Colville girlâ€™s basketball for many years.
Ray Clark and Al Bushnell return to the Colville bench as co-head coaches this winter. Clark and Bushnell take over for Don Teeguarden, who remains on staff as an assistant and junior varsity coach. Also returning to the staff is Kajsa Brons, in her fifth season as a CHS assistant coach. New to the girlâ€™s basketball staff this season is former Kettle Falls High basketball standout, Greg Mace.
Very familiar with the program
Clark and Bushnell last coached the CHS girlâ€™s varsity back in the 2003-2004 season. But itâ€™s not like these veteran coaches have missed much. Theyâ€™ve been actively involved in the girlâ€™s youth basketball program in Colville for years.
â€śWe feel like we know the kids well,â€ť Clark said last week.
The 2011-2012 CHS team is a mix of five seniors and a host of underclassmen.
â€śWe have some veteran players, but weâ€™re kind of an unknown at this point,â€ť Bushnell said.
Added Clark: â€śWe havenâ€™t proven anything.â€ť
It might be difficult to replicate that gaudy 17-5 record this winter. But then again, maybe not. In seniors Ashley Knight, Erin Little and Tasha Luu, the Indians return considerable offensive firepower, rebounding and leadership.
â€śSometimes we look like a senior group and sometimes we look like a bunch of sophomores,â€ť Bushnell said with a smile. â€śWe need to get over that hump. Our sophomore group is going to have to step up; they are certainly very capable of that.â€ť
Indians hope to take advantage of their speed and athleticism
Look for Colville to play at a decidedly upbeat tempo this winter. There is a lot of speed on the roster that Clark and Bushnell hope to take advantage of and tap into.
There are new offensive schemes to assimilate, but it all evolves and revolves around defense.
â€śWe are hoping that defense is one of our strengths this season,â€ť Clark said. â€śWe are very fast. We could put a very good relay team together.â€ť
Added Bushnell: â€śSometimes we are a little too fast and forget the ball.â€ť
â€śWeâ€™re trying to set the pace weâ€™ve been successful with,â€ť added Clark. â€śI hope that we can get this team to show its speed.â€ť
With those five seniors, leadership should also be a strength of the 2011-2012 team. Ditto for depth. With that strong nucleus of sophomores and some dynamic seniors, depth should indeed be a strength.
But while the Indians would seem to have strength in numbers, it can also be a deterrent.
â€śWe have strength with our numbers (of quality players),â€ť Bush pointed out. â€śBut itâ€™s a weakness too. We have to have the right kids on the floorâ€¦itâ€™s going to be a fight for minutes.â€ť
â€śWe have a deep number of sophomores that can play,â€ť Clark said. â€śItâ€™s an extremely strong groupâ€¦and the seniors have been a tremendous plus. Itâ€™s a dynamic group.â€ť
Given Colvilleâ€™s up-tempo of style on both sides of the ball, that depth will certainly be utilized this season.
â€śI think that we are going to run so much that everybody will have their jerseyâ€™s wet,â€ť added Clark. â€śItâ€™s going to take a lot of legs to run this offense.â€ť
AT A GLANCE
Ashley Knight, 5-8 inside player. Knight is a returning All-NEA selection who has always played considerably bigger than her listed height. A four-year varsity performer who will be a key to Colvilleâ€™s success this season. Knight, the MVP at the All-State game last summer, has excellent low post moves and will be a team leader once again. Also a good outside shooter.
Tasha Luu, 5-5 two guard who is capable of running the point, if necessary. A quick, capable scorer and one of the teamâ€™s best athletes. Her speed and hops manifest themselves all over the floor.
Erin Little, 5-11 guard. Another one of Colvilleâ€™s very good all-around athletic talents. With her size, will also play a lot in the paint. A great defender who will also be one of the Indiansâ€™ primary scorers. A dynamic player who can score inside and out. A two-year varsity performer who is an All-League type of talent.
Lexi Lehman, 5-11 post. A second-year varsity performer who is solid inside and will be a major part of the rotation. Another very good team leader.
Rylee Wittmeyer, 5-6. Missed last season with a knee injury. To her considerable credit, Wittmeyer never missed a practice during that lengthy rehab. Very positive player that Bushnell and Clark refer to as â€śan incredible kid.â€ť
Tyra Brons, 5-7 guard. A very good offensive player and good shooter. Sister of graduated CHS point guard Jorden. Runs floor well and is described as a â€śgamer.â€ť
McKenna Cabbage, 5-10. Another of the sophomore newcomers who will have an impact. Plays bigger than her height and another of a very solid group of athletes. Smart player who always seems to be in the right spot.
Sadie Learn, 5-8 guard. Will be one of the teamâ€™s two sophomore point guards. Clark and Bushnell say that Learn is the only player they have ever seen who can â€śeffectively play one through five.â€ť Great length and hops. Good passer with excellent vision.
Terin Main, 5-4 guard. In a battle with Learn at point. May be the teamâ€™s best pure shooter, at least outside. Another very quick player.
Jessie Wittmeyer, 5-4 guard. An outstanding defender and very quick-footed. Tends to make things happen when sheâ€™s in the line-up.
Swing players will include sophomores Courtney Rainer, a solid 5-9 shooter who had a very solid summer of basketball; Malia Luu, another fast and aggressive player who just needs more time on the floor. Another swing player will be Colvilleâ€™s first six-foot player in several years, 6-0 freshman Megan Lee.
To the Dawgs
A sizeable number of Colvilleâ€™s players, varsity and otherwise, have competed in the off-season with the Dawgs All-Star teams out of Spokane.
â€śItâ€™s a good, fun program with excellent coaching,â€ť Clark said. â€śPlaying on the Dawgsâ€™ teams has really been a fun deal for the kids. We encourage our kids who are dedicated to basketball that there is much more to the game than just the high school season.â€ť
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Defending NEA and State 1A champion Freeman returns enough off last seasonâ€™s team to be considered a favorite to repeat.
Lakeside also returns a solid nucleus of players and will be among the leagueâ€™s elite once again.
â€śItâ€™s a very tough league,â€ť Clark said. â€śWhen we move up to 2A (Great Northern League) next season, it wonâ€™t be any different for us.â€ť