If proven talent and an established record of success count for anything, the White River High girls basketball team has reason for optimism.
Plenty of reason. Abundant reason.
Veteran coach Chris Gibson has built a hoop machine at White River, one that compares favorably with the top programs in the state. The Hornets’ numbers are staggering: 14 appearances in the state’s Sweet 16 during the past 16 seasons, a fourth-place finish in the state Class 2A tourney last season and a third-place finish three seasons ago.
Many of the names that have built recent success are back, ready for another state run. Gibson is initially carrying 14 girls on his varsity roster including seniors Amanda Lance, Kristin Sturdivan and Ashley Mills; juniors Maci Goethals, Kayla Howard, Darian Gore, Sydney Andersen, Johanna DeJong, Dallas Bushaw and Sidney Schultz; sophomores Lucy Rasmussen and Kendall Bird; and freshmen sisters Sofia and Georgia Lavinder.
Among the newcomers, the Lavinder sisters moved into the district from Raymond, Wash.; Schultz moves over from nearby Sumner; and both DeJong and Bushaw have moved up from the junior varsity ranks.
Gibson admits it’s a group with the potential to do some good things on the court. Lance, a guard who will take her talents to Western Washington University next year, returns after sharing the league’s Most Valuable Player honors a season ago. Forwards Sturdivan and Bird were double-figure scorers last year and were first-team, all-league performers, while Gore was a second-team pick.
Bird’s all-league selection was noteworthy in that it had been 17 years since a Hornet freshman garnered first-team honors.
Gibson said the team should benefit from offensive balance. There’s plenty of outside firepower to combine with decent size. Gore stands 6-2 and is more of an inside presence; Bird is 6-1, handles the ball well and is most comfortable when facing the basket; and Sturdivan combines an outside threat with 5-11 size.
Gibson said his team had a successful run in summer league games, capped by a third-place finish in the San Diego tournament the Hornets have attended during each of the coach’s 17 seasons at the White River helm.
“We built some good team continuity and I think the girls are excited,” Gibson said. “We’re not going to rest on our past laurels.”