Key returnees highlight rosters for WR hoops

This season is expected to be a good one for the Hornets.

The basketball season tipped off Saturday at White River High with a four-team jamboree. Above. the Hornets’ Kara Marecle races past a Rogers High defender. Photo by Kevin Hanson

The basketball season tipped off Saturday at White River High with a four-team jamboree. Above. the Hornets’ Kara Marecle races past a Rogers High defender. Photo by Kevin Hanson

WHITE RIVER GIRLS

All they do, it seems, is win basketball games.

That’s the undeniable fact surrounding the White River High girls program. Here are just a few of the numbers compiled under coach Chris Gibson, already a Hall of Fame inductee who is still going strong:

• 67 consecutive league victories. The last time the Hornet girls dropped a league contest was the final game of the 2013-14 season; since then, the squad has put together five straight seasons of undefeated league play.

• 19 trips to the Sweet 16 round of the state tournament during a span of 21 seasons.

• five state trophies added to the school’s display case during the past eight years.

• 93 victories in 95 league games during the past seven seasons, with an overall record of 161-34 during that span.

The numbers are nice, but veteran coaches are more concerned with the talent they’re putting on the floor this season. Gibson and Co. lost a couple of key performers from last year’s squad – most notably league MVP Lee Audrey Norris (14 points per game) and first-team all-league performer Chloe Narolski – but the player pantry is still pretty well stocked.

Leading this year’s charge are a pair of juniors, Taylor Schmidtke and Kara Marecle. Both were first-team selections a year ago when SPSL coaches voted for their all-league teams. Both were double-figure scorers last season.

Those two are joined by a handful of others who boast substantial playing time. That list includes seniors Emma Robbins, Dee Dee Forsman and Sam Fiedler; junior Rylie Lund; and sophomore Sydney Lund. Rounding out this season’s varsity roster are senior Maysen Westling and sophomores Brooke Mahler and Ashley Banks.

Following the first week of practice, Gibson was mostly upbeat. The biggest takeaway is that his crew is carrying over the success they built months ago, during the summer tournament season. White River hosted a summer league, played in June tournaments and won five of six games during the big San Diego tourney the squad travels to each summer.

“Defensively, we really improved over the summer,” Gibson said. Another positive note is that “we rebound pretty well for a team our size,” the coach added. That could be crucial, as the Hornets aren’t blessed with a lot of height. Offensively, Hornet fans are likely to see the ball launched from just about anywhere, Gibson said, noting he has a handful of girls who aren’t afraid to shoot from anywhere on the court.

The Hornet girls opened the season by hosting a jamboree Saturday afternoon and see their first real action today (Wednesday) when they host Meridian High. The opener against the Bellingham school tips off at 5 pm. The hoop version of the Battle of the Bridge comes on Saturday with a girls/boys doubleheader against Enumclaw High. The girls’ contest begins at 5:15 p.m. in Enumclaw’s Chuck Smith Gymnasium, with the boys’ game following. The early-season schedule stays busy with a Saturday trip to Lynden.

WHITE RIVER BOYS

Having your leading scorer back for a senior season is a good starting point for any team ­- and that’s exactly where the White River High boys find themselves.

Second-year coach Zach Johnson has welcomed a handful of returning players, perhaps none as impactful as Tanner Wallen. A year ago, as a junior, Wallen averaged 17.5 points per game and was a first-team, all-South Puget Sound League 2A selection.

His return offsets some key departures. Lost to graduation were Joe Flanigan and Brandon Howard, also first-team selections, and Isaac Voellger, a second-team pick.

That group anchored a Hornet squad that placed second in the SPSL’s East Division, advanced to play in the district tournament and finished the campaign with an overall record of 12-9.

Now, Johnson is tasked with assembling a new lineup.

His job has been made easier with the addition of Mason Donovan, who moved into the district from Sumner. Donovan had a major impact on the White River football team during his single season in Buckley and now will look to do the same in the world of Hornet hoops.

The rest of Johnson’s varsity roster includes seniors TJ Stroschein, Jaxon Argo and Brandon Fontana (all saw plenty of varsity time last season), plus Kevin Du, Jeremy Kaiser and Colby Lund, all up from the junior varsity ranks. Additionally, four juniors dot the roster, headed by Wyatt Glissmeyer who appeared in every Hornet contest last season; other juniors are Jared Dahl, Colby Howard and Kristian Latozke, all elevated from the JV.

The Hornets open the season with a busy week. After hosting a jamboree Saturday afternoon, the squad traveled to play the Olympia Bears on Monday and hosted Bonney Lake on Tuesday. Friday brings the annual hoop-style Battle of the Bridge, the boys/girls doubleheader with neighboring Enumclaw High; this year’s games are on the EHS campus with the boys slated to tip off at 7 p.m.

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