With all the Plateau’s fall sports now in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for winter athletes to take center stage.
For many, that means basketball. And the four local teams – boys’ and girls’ squads from both Enumclaw and White River high schools – are ready to launch their 2023-24 seasons.
Here’s an early look at how things are shaping up on both sides of the county line.
WHITE RIVER GIRLS
The coming season appears bright for the White River girls, who placed fifth in last year’s Class 2A state tournament with a roster that included just a single senior.
The one departure was a crucial one, as Morgan Greene was something of a sparkplug for the Hornet machine and was a second team, all-league selection.
But Hall of Fame coach Chris Gibson, starting his 27th year at White River and 35th campaign as a head coach, has made a career of reloading year after year, constantly putting a quality squad on the floor. League championships have become nearly routine and trips to the Class 2A state tourney are frequent.
Early indications show that Gibson has the pieces in place to make another deep run into postseason play.
The wild card? “We need to stay healthy,” the coach said, detailing a couple of issues that will keep girls temporarily sidelined.
This winter’s roster is headed – on paper, anyway – by 6-foot junior Vivian Kingston, who has earned first team, all-league honors the past two seasons. She suffered a torn ACL last season and is working the injured knee back into shape. Gibson hopes she will be ready for January play.
Seniors Ava Bright and Lexi Banks were second team selections a year ago and fellow senior Josie Jacobs received all-league honorable mention, as did junior Dakota Sprouse.
Other returnees who have logged varsity minutes include seniors Ella Klemkow, Alle Klemkow (also recovering from an ACL with a January timeline), Sophie Ross-Soler and Ally Green, along with junior and Emma Voellger.
There’s a youth movement in place, as two freshmen, Maggee Schmitz and Malia Froemke, appear to have cracked the varsity roster.
Gibson and Co. open the season with a pair of nonleague games. The Hornets will first take on the girls from South Summit High at 7 p.m. Thursday, welcoming the team from Kamas, Utah (about 45 miles southeast of Salt Lake City). The following night, the Utah crew will face the Orting Cardinals. White River’s second game comes Saturday against Puyallup High; the contest tips off at 1 p.m. and will be played at Auburn Riverside High School.
Start with a healthy dose of varsity experience and add a serious dash of consistency and you get the core ingredients of this year’s Enumclaw High boys’ basketball team.
It’s a recipe seemingly built for success.
Veteran coach Terry Johnson has welcomed back five seniors who have played varsity hoops together since they were sophomores. The quintet is headed by Karson Holt, who earned honorable mention a season ago when SPSL 2A coaches decided their all-league team. The group also includes Wyatt Neu, Landon Brauer, Austin Pierce and Liam Leonard.
That’s a solid core but Johnson, the reigning SPSL 2A Coach of the Year, sees good things happening up and down the roster.
“Our bench will be young, but we like the talent in our sophomores and freshmen,” he reported. “Jason Feddema had a great off-season and should have a very good year,” Johnson said of the sophomore, “We will also get great minutes from Gavin Trachte and Travis Leonard,” the coach said, referring to a pair of Hornet sophomores. And, he added, freshman Kannon Kuzaro could turn into a valuable contributor.
The varsity basketball squad will be slow coming together, due to the great success enjoyed by the EHS football team. The gridiron group played over the weekend in the state Class 2A semifinals, meaning some key pieces to Johnson’s hoop puzzle have just joined the basketball turnouts.
“As always, the strength of our group lies in their commitment to playing hard and playing for each other,” Johnson summarized “If we do that, we will have a successful season.”
Everyone will have to step up a bit to offset a couple of key losses from last year’s squad. Departing due to graduation were Carter DeRosier, last season’s SPSL 2A Most Valuable Player, and Noah Seabrands, a second team, all-league guard.
The Hornets jump into SPSL 2A play this Friday, December 1, when they host the Washington High Patriots, Tipoff time is 7 p.m. in Chuck Smith Gymnasium. The following night brings a nonleague contest at Auburn Riverside with a 7:30 start time.
Entering his third season at the Enumclaw High helm, coach Danny Graham is tasked with finding players to fill key roles at the varsity level.
Gone from the girls’ program are standouts like Charlee Torgison and Gwenny Hardersen, a pair of first team, all-league selections a season ago. Also lost due to graduation were Marissa Lindberg, a second team pick, and Gabi Martel, who received honorable mention during her senior campaign.
As Graham assembles his 2023 roster and assigns roles, he can start with senior Bella Firnkoess, who garnered first team honors the past two seasons.
Also back are a handful of players who helped the Hornets qualify for last year’s Class 2A state tournament. Returnees include seniors Natalie DeMarco and Lilly Atkins, juniors Kalee Swanson and Sydney VanHoof and sophomore Ava Smith.
Fans of the EHS girls’ hoop team had their first look at the ’23 squad on Monday of this week when the Hornets hosted Puyallup High in nonleague action. The nonleague slate continues tonight (Wednesday) when EHS travels to Bonney Lake High and Saturday at Auburn Riverside. The South Puget Sound League 2A campaign opens December 5 with a home game against the Orting Cardinals.
WHITE RIVER BOYS
Following a nonleague tune-up this Saturday against Auburn High, the White River boys will leap into South Puget Sound League 2A play with three contests in seven days. The schedule begins with a December 5 road trip to Washington High, continues three days later with a home game against Orting and ends December 11 with a trip to Steilacoom.
Coach Zach Johnson, who has guided the Hornet program since the 2018-19 season, has some familiar faces at his disposal. Back in the fold are senior Colin Schmidtke, a first team, all-league selection a season ago, and junior Greg Schmitz, who earned all-league honorable mention last year.
Others returning from last year’s squad, which fell one victory shy of making the 16-team state 2A tournament, include seniors Tyce Donovan, Aaden Rathbun and Jace Marecle; juniors Blake Caldwell and Sawyer Bloom; and sophomore Logan Senon.