White River girls aim to return to Sweet 16

The team hasn’t made it to state in only two season out of the last 20 years.

Noelle Mills returns for her senior season with the perennially-successful White River program. File folder by Kevin Hanson

Noelle Mills returns for her senior season with the perennially-successful White River program. File folder by Kevin Hanson

WHITE RIVER GIRLS

Things will look different on the court this season, as the Hornets are playing without the talented and productive Lavinder twins, Georgia and Sofia, who graduated from White River and took their game to Tacoma and the University of Puget Sound. Before leaving, Georgia was a three-time all-league player, set a school record with 10 3-pointers in one game and was voted the SPSL 2A’s Most Valuable Player; Sofia made the all-league list three times, capping her career with a first-team selection as a senior.

Despite those losses, Chris Gibson will not find his roster depleted. Far from it, in fact. The Hall of Fame coach can turn to shooters like sophomore Kara Marecle and senior LeeAudrey Norris; both earned all-league recognition a year ago, Marecle on the second team and Norris getting honorable mention.

Gibson points to a general lack of size on this year’s squad, but has senior Chloe Narolski under the boards. Also bringing varsity experience are senior Noelle Mills; juniors Emma Robbins, Sam Fiedler and DeeDee Forsman; sophomores Taylor Schmidtke and Rylie Lund; and freshman Sydney Lund.

The squad will be looking to continue an enviable, two-decade run of success. During Gibson’s 20 years at White River, the Hornets have reached the state tourney’s Sweet 16 in all but two seasons, including last year. The best finishes in recent years include a sixth-place finish in 2017 and fourth-place honors in 2015.

A season ago, Gibson and Co. raced to a perfect 14-0 record and claimed a fourth-straight SPSL 2A title, swept aside three foes on the way to a district championship and again advanced to the Class 2A state tournament.

The Hornet girls had their first taste of live action Saturday, when they hosted the White River Jamboree. The nonleague portion of the season kicked off Tuesday with a home game against Battle Ground and continues this Friday, Nov. 30, with the annual tussle with neighboring Enumclaw. Game time is 5:15 p.m. in the White River gymnasium.

WHITE RIVER BOYS

The biggest story in the world of White River boys hoops is a new coach holding the Hornet reins. But “new” is something of a relative term, as Zach Johnson has been a longtime fixture in the program, first as a player and more recently as an assistant coach. Now, it’s his time at the top.

From the outset, he will put experience on the court in the form of seniors Joe Flanigan and Brandon Howard. They’re coming off a season in which Flanigan was named to the SPSL 2A’s second team and Howard received honorable mention.

Also boasting varsity experience are seniors Mavrik Mills and Isaac Voelger and juniors TJ Stroschein, Ryan Firle and Tanner Wallen.

Johnson first saw his crew in action Nov. 24 when the Hornet program hosted the White River Jamboree. Nonleague play begins tonight, Nov. 28, with a trip to nearby Bonney Lake. Friday brings a “Battle of the Bridge” showdown with rival Enumclaw High; the games, both boys and girls, will be contested in the White River gymnasium.

The squad will aim to bounce back from last year’s campaign that saw a 9-11 record during the regular season, a fifth-place league finish and no postseason appearance.

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