The action on the hardwood has begun for several basketball teams, and many are getting a good look at who will replace their graduated stars. We finish our two-part preview by looking at the girls squads within the city limits.
The Abes should be led by sophomore forward Tamia Braggs, who burst onto the scene last year to earn all-league first-team honors with her dominant inside play.
Senior forward Breneya Johnson adds height in the middle, and senior wing Kayla McLean provides good leadership.
“Right now they’re becoming a team,” said first-year head coach Jamila Jones. “That’s probably the biggest thing…having everybody on the same vision.”
Jones also expects sophomore point guard Aamira Turner to be solid in helping guide the offense, while guards Joy Failauga and Kairia Thomas should see extensive time as well.
The Abes will look for a return trip to the playoffs after making it to the postseason for the first time in six years last winter.
After advancing to the Tacoma Dome last year, the Rams lost star guards Bethany Montgomery and Kaysha Fox and forward Tia Briggs to graduation.
But junior forward Kapri Morrow returns to give the Rams a strong scoring option in the middle, and sophomore Kiara Knox should solidify the Rams’ frontcourt.
The void left by Montgomery and Fox will be tough to fill, but head coach Michelle Birge expects sophomore Alaundra Alford and freshman Josie Matz to step up and take on the challenge.
“Our focus right now is to build the chemistry because it’s a whole new team,” Birge said.
Seniors Tyra Foster and Jamila Leppard and junior Aujanique Doss all stand 6-foot or taller, and should see significant time.
The Thunderbirds graduated speedy guards Ashley Keys and Tanisha Lopez, while sharpshooter Shakira Ruffin transferred to Franklin Pierce. But Mount Tahoma’s fast-paced style shouldn’t change, even with four or five freshmen on the varsity roster.
“We’re going to push the ball,” said head coach Calvin McHenry. “When you have young kids and push the ball, you expect some mistakes…we’re going to get a good look at what we’re made of.”
Senior forward Rejie Wright has a knack for scoring inside and should see a significant amount of opportunities, while senior Jea’Ohnna Lee is the veteran in the backcourt.
The Thunderbirds will hope to challenge for a playoff spot again after a disappointing finish against Kennedy Catholic in districts last year.
The Falcons will be a youthful bunch this year, but one that should have a stronger knowledge of the game.
Leading the way is senior post Gina Leber, while junior guard Marilyn Thai also returns to guide the Falcons’ attack.
Head coach Jeffrey Ptolemy noted that with a lack of height, the Falcons must focus on offensive efficiency and gaining points in transition.
“We’re really going to try to maintain possession of the ball,” he said. “Our goal is to have good possessions on offense and work for the ball on defense.”
The Lions lost all-league picks Sydney Swofford and Ionna Price to graduation, but have a good shot at making noise after advancing to the state regionals last winter.
Senior first-team all-league guard Jasmyne Holmes returns to lead the way, while 6-foot-4 junior forward Claire Martin is an imposing inside presence. Junior forward Shelby Gavigan should take on a bigger role inside, and sophomore Jayana Ervin will step up after showing promising flashes last year.
“Our theme this year is doing hard things,” said head coach Kevin Meines. “We don’t want to shy away from doing those little things that are hard, that people sometimes ignore…we’re going to push ourselves.”
Meines expects senior guard Kelsy McElroy to provide great leadership, and sophomores RaShanae Petty and Megan Jacobsen will contribute as well.
After struggling with consistency last year, the Tigers will hope to limit their mistakes on offense and ramp up the intensity on defense.
“On defense we’re going to have to play (with) pressure and force as many turnovers, if not more, than we have ourselves,” said head coach Mark Stewart. “It’s going to be a team effort.”
Senior forward Shaya Murray and sophomores Amber Longrie and Kallie Broughton will lead the way, as the Tigers will look to offset a lack of height with a team rebounding philosophy.
Stewart noted that he expects freshman forward Vanessa Higgins – who broke out for 31 points against Life Christian on Dec. 2 – to make an immediate impact.
The Eagles will look for junior Taylor Boles, who has steadily improved over her career, to be their floor general, and fellow junior guards Maddy Long and Katie Anderson should be high-impact players as well.
Sophomore 5-foot-11 forward Courtney Youngblood is a strong rebounder, and the Eagles’ front court should be bolstered by senior transfer Joy Olson. But the Eagles will lean on their experienced back court to make plays.
“The thing that’s going to be important for us is game tempo,” said head coach Robert Normandeau. “Generally speaking we’re a smaller team, but I think we’re going to match up well in terms of speed and quickness.”
With an extremely young roster, featuring as many as 10 freshmen, the Crusaders will rely on their trademark pressure defense to remain competitive in the SeaTac 2B.
But senior forward Sarah Zeitler should continue to lead the offensive attack, as she averaged 13 points and 13 rebounds per game last year. Sophomore guards Ashley Brooks and Jennifer Brooks will create plays on the outside, and hope to create points in transition.
“We’re going to be kind of like a fast-break, run-and-gun team just because of who we have,” said head coach Josh Narayan.
Narayan also expects sophomore forward Jane Cooksley and freshman point guard Abby Leaman to have a significant impact.