Taking a closer look at the KingCo, SPSL, WesCo, Metro, Cascade and Seamount leagues as the 2015-16 girls basketball season gets underway.
KingCo 4A: Bothell is the team to beat this season and comes in with high expectations after reaching the Final Eight last year. Taya Corosdale (6-2 W/P) established herself among the top players in the state as a sophomore last year and is averaging close to 18 points and eight rebounds thus far. Junior Keyonna Jones (5-8 G/W) and senior Sierra Cole (5-7 G) are also consistent scoring threats (Cole missed all of last season with a knee injury) and senior Erin Burns (5-6 G) is an outstanding distributor. It could be a dogfight after that with multiple teams making a playoff push. Inglemoor lost a talented group to graduation (notably All-American Deja’ Strother, now at UW, as well as veterans Alex Hagen and Jordana Price). But the Vikings – who lost last year’s state title game to Gonzaga Prep in overtime – still have two key pieces back in seniors Kennedy Nicholas (6-3 C) and Mackenzie Gardner (5-6 PG), with juniors Amanda Luckett (6-1 F/C) and Hannah Shimek (5-10 G) scoring well early. Woodinville, Skyline, Eastlake and Issaquah should make waves as well. Junior Gabby Whalen (5-10 F) and senior Emily Spencer (5-7 G) lead a balanced Woodinville attack, while Skyline has looked early on to sophomore Jade Loville (5-9 W) and junior Kailey Kassuba (5-10 W). The Spartans return four starters and are another team with multiple weapons. Eastlake has some scoring punch in senior Sarah Priestly (6-0 F) and sophomores Gina Marxen (5-7 PG) and Cameron Edward (5-7 G). Issaquah is a seasoned group with seven seniors, including guards Tatum Dow (5-8) and Lauren Longo (5-7). Freshman Kiki Milloy (5-10 W/P) should contribute at both ends for Redmond. Newport lacks size and has just one experienced senior in Emily Hillyer (5-7 G), but has promising young players. Mount Si returns four starters, including senior Annie Hiebert (5-8 P), but is still in a building phase.
SPSL 4A NE: Kentridge and Kentlake shared the division crown last year at 7-1 and both teams look strong again this season. But Tahoma (4-4 a year ago) is in the conversation as well and it might be a three-team race between them, although once-dominant Kentwood hopes to be back on the rise after finishing just 3-17. Kentridge lost eight seniors (including co-MVP Bobbi Westendorf), but features one of the area’s top up-and-coming prospects in 6-3 freshman post JaQuaya Miller and has a promising PG in Tresai McGarver (5-4 So.). LaDrea Ford (5-10 P) is the lone returning senior. Kentlake’s Aniston Denckla (5-11 F) was co-MVP of the division as a freshman last year and has a high basketball IQ. Junior PG Sydney Peterson (5-7) is a heady player as well and scored 29 against Puyallup. Tahoma returns most everyone from the team that just missed regionals last year, led by a trio of first-team performers – senior Rachel Paulson (5-7 PG) and juniors Ginny Mehl (6-1 P) and Kaelan Shamseldin (5-8 G). Senior Arial Miller (5-8 W) is scoring well early. Kentwood returns seven two-year veterans and has gotten good scoring from 5-3 senior guard Zaria Jones thus far. Senior Savannah Lackey (5-11 P) is Kent-Meridian’s returning first-team player.
SPSL 4A NW: The race is for second place behind Beamer, not only the clear favorite in the division and league overall, but a contender for the 4A state championship after last year’s third-place finish. The Titans are loaded again, despite the loss of senior guard Quinessa Caylao-Do, one of their four first-team selections and a Colorado recruit. She is now at Bellevue. But they return MVP Bria Rice (5-8 G, Colorado commit) along with fellow seniors Nia Alexander (5-9 G, University of San Francisco) and Makenna Woodfolk (6-2 W/C, Hawaii). The other four teams in the division all have new coaches. Mount Rainier, a state contender when the McPhee twins were in the fold, won just five games last year after two other starters transferred away. But there is optimism this season and the Rams will look to senior Kenzie Gandy (5-7 PG), who played in the 2014 title game and will return to the lineup soon after an early injury. Sophomore Madison Lommen (5-3 PG) has averaged better than 16 points through the first give games. Jefferson has shown early promise and has three returning seniors in Isabelle McLarty (5-4 G), Bailey Nelson (5-6 F) and Katie Hernandez (5-4 G). Decatur is super young and still rebuilding, but got a 20-point game early from junior Makala Lambert (5-11 C). Federal Way also has a wealth of youth, with a few veterans mixed in. Look for good things from freshman Makiya Worthy (5-11 G/F).
SPSL 4A South: Curtis and Bethel were division co-champs last year and likely will battle it out again this season, although information has been hard to come by. Bethel traditionally plays stout defense and can struggle at times offensively – although sophomore Tianna Brown (5-9 G) has put up some good early numbers and was the division MVP last season. Curtis returns a pair of first-teamers in senior Anna Matz (6-1 P) and sophomore Jalaiya Frederick (5-2 G). Puyallup will push for prominence, too, and returns junior Sophie DeWitt (5-6 G), who was a second-team selection last year. She had 20 in the Vikings’ season opener. Junior Jessie Westering (5-11 F) is a returning first-team player for Rogers, which was extremely young last year. Emerald Ridge has three returning regulars, led by senior Brooke Peterson (5-10 F). Senior Jackie Gutierrez (5-10) is one of three posts back at Spanaway Lake and is scoring in double figures. At Graham-Kapowsin, seniors Shelby Quilin (5-10 P) and Amber Tolson (5-5 G) have shown abilities to score.
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WesCo 4A: Don’t let the slow start by Snohomish fool you. The Panthers lost their three preseason games to talented 3A teams that could well wind up at the Tacoma Dome. Snohomish could make it there, too, behind their pair of dynamic, 6-1 seniors – G/F Madison Pollock (University of San Diego) and F Madeline Smith (Montana State). Smith was the WesCo Player of the Year last season. Lake Stevens surprised some people last year by winning the league title after being picked to finish third. The Vikings lost two close games that cost them a trip to regionals. They lost two key seniors to graduation but have a dynamic 6-2 sophomore in Kylee Griffen, a Division I prospect and more size with 6-1 Haley Wilson, one of only two seniors on the squad. Kamiak is looking to improve on last year’s 13-9 campaign and has an athletic squad that can shoot threes (Knights hit 19 in their opening two games). The return of 5-10 senior Tylor Adcock (currently out with a broken toe) will help the undersized squad. Monroe has three starters back, including junior Jadynn Alexander (5-10 G/F), who has already scored more than 20 points on a couple of occasions this season. The Bearcats were knocked out at regionals by Inglemoor last year. Mariner’s Hannah Hezekiah (5-7 G) opened eyes as a freshman last year and is scoring in bunches again along with senior Zaira Rubio (5-3 G). Jackson, once a playoff regular, continues to rebuild along with Mount Vernon and Cascade.
Metro League Mountain Division: Juniors Jadyn Bush (5-10 P) and Taylor Chambers (5-5 PG) make Bishop Blanchet the heavy favorite in the division and a 3A state contender after leading successful runs the past two seasons (the Braves were in the semifinals last March and in title game in 2014). The talent doesn’t stop there either, as multiple others contribute, including seniors Lily DiPietro (5-7 G) and Bella Kemp (5-10, P, daughter of Shawn Kemp). Lakeside should be next in line and the Lions return a first-team all-Metro player back in junior Kailin Spiller (6-3 P). Senior Kimijah King (5-9 G) moves from PG and the team is without junior Chloe Loreen, who is concentrating on volleyball. There’s plenty of change at Holy Names, which lost eight seniors and has a new head coach in Amy Donovan. She expects big things from junior Rachel Francisco (5-4 PG), one of only two returning players (6-0 senior F Lindsey Cleary is the other). Seattle Prep has a mix of seniors with sophomores (notably Hilary Lapke, a 5-4 G) and freshmen (5-7 F Helen Sauvage has scored well). Bainbridge hopes to improve behind the play of junior Taylor Tye (5-7 G), an all-Metro honorable mention last season. Amber and Kwan Johnson take over as co-head coaches at Eastside Catholic and welcome two starters back, senior Katlyn Spires (5-8 G/F) and junior Bailey Haner (5-6 G).
Metro League Valley Division: Cleveland clawed its way back to the 3A title game for the third year in a row, despite heavy graduation losses, but this time lost a tough battle to Lynnwood after winning back-to-back. Again, the top two players graduated (Jayde Christopher, now at Kansas, and Joyce Harrell, Boise State) and three others elected not to turn out. Jamie Redd, in her second season as head coach, expects this year’s squad to be more defensive minded. The offense should be balanced led by junior Giavanni Flowers (5-6 G) and senior twins Ryshun (5-5) and Ryshel (5-6) Sampson, both guards. Garfield junior Juanita Agosto (5-6 G) is a prolific scorer and should have a better supporting cast, but the speedy Bulldogs are still young with just one senior. Ingraham’s hopes ride in part on junior Melissa Nunez (5-7 G/F). Nathan Hale’s roster includes only one senior, Vicktorea White (5-0 G), while Franklin has had a 10-point game early on from sophomore Xerina Walker (5-9 F).
Metro League Sound Division: West Seattle is coming off a historic season with a fourth-place finish at state and features the Metro’s reigning MVP in senior center Lydia Giomi, who is listed at 6-7 this season and has signed with Oregon. Fellow seniors Lexi Ioane (5-11 F) and Gabby Sarver (5-10 W) also return and new coach Darnell Taylor has high hopes for freshman Jenna McPhee (5-8 G), sister of twins Brittany and Jordan McPhee, who led Mount Rainier to a series of 4A state trophies between 2011-14). Ballard has leading scorer Stella Sohl (6-0 Sr. P) back and looks to be a factor. Junior Adrianna Davis (5-5 PG) is a defensive gem and the Beavers are excited about freshmen Kate Rutledge (5-11 W) and Samantha Smith (5-10 W). Rainier Beach is on the rise and second-year coach Mychal Ladd believes the Vikings can make a playoff run. Junior Nirae Petty (5-8 G) and senior Saniah Simpson-Patu (5-11 F) are big scoring threats and sophomore Grace Williams (5-6 G) could be a factor after earning all-Seamount first-team honors at Foster last year. Roosevelt has shown good offensive balance early from senior Lucy Morrill, junior Jojo Hultez and freshman Karmelah Dean, all guards. Chief Sealth also appears to have a variety of scoring threats, including seniors Allison Hadaway (5-8 G) and Elliott Snodgrass (5-10 G/F) and junior Sydney Thomas (6-0 G/F).
KingCo 3A/2A: Simply put, Bellevue is loaded. The Wolverines have reached the 3A state semifinals in each of the past three seasons and come up short, placing fifth in 2013 and ’15 and third in between. So they’re hungry and already were returning three starters – including Star Times all-area great Shelby Cansler (6-1 Sr. G) and Portland State-bound Tatiana Streun (6-1 Sr. F). Then come two dynamic senior transfers – Anna Wilson (5-8 PG) and Quinessa Caylao-Do (5-9 G). Wilson, the sister of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, has played with the Junior Olympic team and has signed with Stanford. Caylao-Do was an all-SPSL 4A first-team choice at Beamer last year, helping the Titans to a third-place finish. All can score in bunches and Bellevue put up 104 points against Juanita. The Rebels have a pair of talented players of their own in juniors Tea Adams (5-10 PG) and Shallexus Aaron (6-2 G), but lacks a strong inside presence provided last year by Jaisa Nunn (now at New Mexico), who shared league MVP honors with Adams. Aaron missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury. Supporting cast must step up. Mercer Island has a strong contingent back, led by junior Anna Luce (6-2 F/C), a first-team all-KingCo choice last year, and senior Jessica Blakeslee (5-10 G), a second-team pick. Senior Taylor Krause (5-10 F) is scoring well, too. Courtney Wehner (5-8 G) returns as Interlake’s top point-producer and gets help from fellow junior Amanda Mehloff (5-6 G), who is also a defensive dandy. The Saints are deeper than in the past. Lake Washington has good size in a pair of 6-2 senior posts, Hanna Brender and Georgie Romine-Black, plus solid guards in senior Johnna Janke and junior Kathy Helf, both 5-8. Liberty and Sammamish compete at the 2A level come postseason play. Sammamish reached the Final Eight last season for the first time since 1995, but welcomes back just one starter – senior Aleyah Bennett (5-4 G). Liberty, which lost in the regional round, also has but one starter back in junior Samantha Kelderman (5-10 G/F). Sophomore Sydney Argosino (5-9 G) can be a streaky shooter.
SPSL 3A: Auburn Riverside is rolling early and is favored to repeat as league champion after sharing last year’s title with Sumner, which lost a lot to graduation (most notably co-MVP Jamie Lange). And the Ravens are young, so are in the midst of what could be a long run. Junior McKenzi Williams (5-3 PG) is a returning all-league player with MVP possibilities and two other junior starters return in Olivia Denton (5-6 G) and Faith Turner (6-3 C). Auburn Mountainview should be in the mix with the return of all-league guard Brianna Zaragoza-Jones (5-5 Sr.) and two other senior starters, Tanya Spatarel (5-10 F) and Lauren Short (6-0 C), plus newcomer Taylor Flores (5-6 Fr. G) is legit. Sumner is young, but quick, and could get a boost from junior Joy Mahnken (5-5 G), who earned an all-league honorable mention as a junior and missed last season with a knee injury). Enumclaw and Bonney Lake hope to be in the playoff mix. Sam Engebretsen (5-8 G) is one of two senior starters back for the Hornets and was a first-team selection last season. Bonney Lake has a returning guard duo in senior Brooklyn Gratzer and junior Payton Mitchell, both 5-8. Lakes is athletic as usual, led by junior Mallory LaPoole (5-9 G), a returning first-team choice, but graduated co-MVP Olivia Crawford. Peninsula is paced by a pair of 6-1 posts, senior Lilly Portteus and sophomore Kristen Ritchie. Auburn will lean in part on 5-10 sophomore post Rebecca Thareek with junior guard Sydney Dewitt (all-league second team last year) out for the season with an injury.
WesCo 3A North: Arlington is favored to sweep a fourth straight division crown with 10 players back from the squad that took fourth at state last year. Lack of size is a slight concern as senior forward Jayla Russ is the only 6-footer on the roster. She was an all-league, first-team pick along with senior guard Gracie Castaneda (5-8). The Eagles are quick, balanced and play an up-tempo style. Stanwood should make another playoff push behind senior Haley Strowbridge (5-11 F), who earned second-team all-league honors last year, and the Spartans get added scoring punch from junior Ashley Bierer (5-6 G) and sophomores Ashley Alter (5-11 F) and Jillian Heichel (5-11 G). Everett has a proven scorer in senior Sydney Taggart (6-0 G/F), a second-team pick and will need production from others as well. Marysville-Getchell has shown some explosiveness on offense, led by junior Gabrielle Grandbois (5-7 P/G), but is young with just one senior. Oak Harbor has lacked consistency early on but appears to have a scorer in junior Bryn Langrock (5-6 G). Marysville-Pilchuck seniors Skyleen Inthathirath (5-2 G) and Amanda Kalab (5-6 F) combined for 35 points in a 64-48 loss to Monroe after the Tomahawks struggled offensively in their opening two games.
WesCo 3A South:Mikayla Pivec and Jordyn Edwards give Lynnwood a shot at a second straight state title, and the dynamic senior duo has help, too. Pivec (5-10 G), the state’s reigning Gatorade Player of the Year who has signed with Oregon State, does a little bit of everything – including a lot of scoring (20 ppg last year). Edwards (5-10 G), a returning first-team choice who selected Colorado State, is known for her defense but also scores well. Juniors Kelsey Rogers (6-1 P) and Kaprice Boston (5-10 G) must be accounted for, too. Again, the division is top-heavy with state additional prospects in Glacier Peak and Edmonds-Woodway. GP is hungry after getting knocked out by Cleveland in the regional round last season, finishing 20-4. Junior Paisley Johnson (5-9 G) earned all-league honors last season and has committed to BYU. She’s averaging around 15 ppg and the Grizzlies have two other juniors in double figures – Kayla Watkins (6-1 P) and Samantha Fatkin (5-10 PG). E-W has just two key players back from last season, but they’re good ones – senior Mady Burdett (5-7 G) and junior Missy Peterson (5-10 PG). Burdett drained eight three-pointers en route to a 34-point outing against Jackson earlier this month. Moses Lake transfer Mattie Tudor (5-11 Sr. P) is another threat. Shorewood has shown some promise and returns senior Lily Gustafson (6-0 F), a second-team selection last year. Juniors Taryen Shelly (6-2 C) and Jalyn Hizey (5-7 G) have scored well early. Mountlake Terrace, which won its opener last year then lost 18 straight, already has two wins and is super young with a sophomore group that includes Jazmine Zenk (5-7 P/G). Once-prominent Meadowdale continues to rebuild with just two seniors. Juniors Selina Tekle (5-8 G/P) and Grace Wilson (5-10 P) have been among the team’s better scorers. The one 2A team in the division is Shorecrest, and the athletic Scots hope to have some postseason success there. Senior Wurrie Njadoe (5-8 G) swept four individual track-and-field titles at state last spring and has a scholarship to Kansas State, but is an accomplished basketball player, too. Senior Uju Chibuogwa (5-10 P) was a second-team all-WesCo pick last season and sophomore Julie Strand (6-0 W) has shown some scoring punch.
Seamount League (3A/2A):Ariell Garnett (5-8 Sr. G) is the reigning Athlete of the Year in Seamount girls basketball and led Kennedy Catholic to a 14-0 league campaign last season. Her speed causes opponents problems (she won the 100 and 200 at state track last spring) and she can score in bunches, too. Junior Miyu Miyashita (5-3 G) is poised for big year, too. Early injuries might cause a slow start, but coach Greg Caldwell expects good things down the stretch. Hazen is the only other 3A team in the league and features more height than in the past, which could cause some matchup problems. Senior Kaya Dumas (6-0 F) is one of three returning starters and Sharaya Coe (6-0 P) is among the promising group of freshmen who will make an impact. Renton appears to be the strongest 2A contender and lost only two league games last year. Sophomore Kiera Bush (5-11 F) is the lone returning starter, but the squad welcomes a pair of talented freshmen in LaAujharae Vasser (5-4 G) and Sean Benning (5-4 G). Lindbergh also has a good-looking freshman in Elle Watts (5-11 F), who has average just over 10 points through the first five games. Foster hopes to be in the mix and features yet another posed freshman in Makana Montoya (5-4 PG), who poured in 26 points against Bethel. Tyee got a monster game from senior Keyara Brooks (5-7 G) against Evergreen with 33 points, 11 rebounds, 9 steals and 5 assists. Mary Rose Cadelina (5-2 PG) is the other key senior, but the Totems have some young talent, including freshman Hila’atu Veikoso (6-1 P). Highline is young with sophomore Britney Kinney (5-4 G) and freshman Stella Fosberg (5-9 P) providing some early scoring. Evergreen has struggled offensively, lacking much size, and will look in part to sophomore Sabrina Pietron (5-7 G/F).
Cascade Conference: King’s is the defending 1A state champion and should make another solid run with nine returning players, led by senior Daylee Hanson (5-10 G), a first-team all-Cascade choice last season who has signed with Idaho. The Knights did lose league MVP Savanna Hanson and first-teamer Ashley Osborn, and lack some overall size, but have a trio of freshmen who could contribute early. Also on the 1A side, Cedar Park Christian (Bothell) is looking to improve on last year’s 7-13 campaign. Injuries may hurt the Eagles early, but they hope to make a playoff push down the stretch. Seniors Sasha Krololenko (5-11 P), Alex Nolan (5-8 W) and Kristen Barclay (5-4 G) should set the pace. South Whidbey could also be in the picture. Among the 2A teams in the conference, coaches see Archbishop Murphy as the top contender, although the Wildcats are young with just three seniors – including Megan Wall (5-11 G), a first-team all-conference last year, and Kacey Moore (5-7 G), a second-team pick. Lakewood features senior Marissa Blair (5-9 F), a first-team selection last season. Also back are senior Hayley Senyitko (5-4 G) and junior Emily Senyitko (5-5 F), sisters who are two-year starters and among the leading scorers. Cedarcrest is super young with no seniors, so confidence could be a factor. Scoring has been sporadic. Kennedy Howell (5-11 F) got a nod on the all-league second team last year and sophomore Elaine Townley (5-7 G) is a factor at both ends of the court. Junior Meredith Burke (5-11 P) will be key as well. With three district berths up for grabs (compared to two last year), the Red Wolves are hoping to take the next step.