Ray Clark, Al Bushnell back to lead Colville

It could be another interesting winter for Colville High girl’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 girl’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 girl’s basketball staff this season is former Kettle Falls High basketball standout, Greg Mace.Very familiar with the programClark and Bushnell last coached the CHS girl’s varsity back in the 2003-2004 season. But it’s not like these veteran coaches have missed much. They’ve been actively involved in the girl’s youth basketball program in Colville for years.“We feel like we know the kids well,” Clark said last week. The 2011-2012 CHS team is a mix of five seniors and a host of underclassmen. “We have some veteran players, but we’re kind of an unknown at this point,” Bushnell said. Added Clark: “We haven’t proven anything.”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.“Sometimes we look like a senior group and sometimes we look like a bunch of sophomores,” Bushnell said with a smile. “We need to get over that hump. Our sophomore group is going to have to step up; they are certainly very capable of that.”Indians hope to take advantage of their speed and athleticismLook 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.“We are hoping that defense is one of our strengths this season,” Clark said. “We are very fast. We could put a very good relay team together.”Added Bushnell: “Sometimes we are a little too fast and forget the ball.”“We’re trying to set the pace we’ve been successful with,” added Clark. “I hope that we can get this team to show its speed.”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.“We have strength with our numbers (of quality players),” Bush pointed out. “But it’s a weakness too. We have to have the right kids on the floor…it’s going to be a fight for minutes.”“We have a deep number of sophomores that can play,” Clark said. “It’s an extremely strong group…and the seniors have been a tremendous plus. It’s a dynamic group.”Given Colville’s up-tempo of style on both sides of the ball, that depth will certainly be utilized this season. “I think that we are going to run so much that everybody will have their jersey’s wet,” added Clark. “It’s going to take a lot of legs to run this offense.”AT A GLANCESeniors—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 Colville’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 team’s best athletes. Her speed and hops manifest themselves all over the floor.Erin Little, 5-11 guard. Another one of Colville’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 Indians’ 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 “an incredible kid.”Sophomores—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 “gamer.”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 team’s two sophomore point guards. Clark and Bushnell say that Learn is the only player they have ever seen who can “effectively play one through five.” Great length and hops. Good passer with excellent vision.Terin Main, 5-4 guard. In a battle with Learn at point. May be the team’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 she’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 Colville’s first six-foot player in several years, 6-0 freshman Megan Lee. To the DawgsA sizeable number of Colville’s players, varsity and otherwise, have competed in the off-season with the Dawgs All-Star teams out of Spokane. “It’s a good, fun program with excellent coaching,” Clark said. “Playing on the Dawgs’ 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.”AROUND THE LEAGUEDefending NEA and State 1A champion Freeman returns enough off last season’s team to be considered a favorite to repeat. Lakeside also returns a solid nucleus of players and will be among the league’s elite once again.“It’s a very tough league,” Clark said. “When we move up to 2A (Great Northern League) next season, it won’t be any different for us.”