Cougar girls focus on playoffs

"If momentum counts for anything, the days of two-and-outs at the district tournament could be over for the Central Kitsap High School girls basketball team.The Cougars finished their regular season with a pair of one-sided victories, including last Friday's 73-32 thrashing of intradistrict rival Olympic, and advance to tonight's West Central District tourney opener at Bethel with something they didn't have in their prior two postseason trips: Confidence.Experience speaks for itself, said CK coach Denise Baxter, whose team has come up empty in both of its previous WCD forays. We've got six seniors who are going (to the postseason) for the third time, and two more (underclassmen) who've been there, too. There's just so much experience and leadership out on the floor, it makes a big difference.The experience showed in the Cougars' last two Olympic League games, against two teams - Bremerton and Olympic - whose whole game plan is disruption. CK, it seems, just isn't letting itself be disrupted.These were like pre-district games for us, said senior Leana Abille, one of the Cougs' nucleus of six three-year district veterans. There's a lot of tension with those two teams, so we knew we'd have to keep our heads and our focus.Thus atuned, the Cougars destroyed Bremerton 80-36 Tuesday, then made the most of their prime-time billing Friday (they played the nightcap of the Battle of Bucklin Hill doubleheader on their home floor) by pummeling the Trojans.Give them credit. They've got a good team chemistry, said Olympic coach Jerry Hurd. They play real well together. If we can't play halfcourt with them, and if we have the kind of turnovers we had tonight, we're going to have trouble.Friday, Central ran its offense so quickly and efficiently that the Cougars often had layups or near-layups before Olympic even had settled into its defense. CK's first five buckets all were from 8 feet or closer, including two baskets off offensive rebounds by junior post Cassie Llewellyn, who finished with a game-high 20 points.When Lindsey Whyte converted another offensive board, the Cougs led 16-5 at the end of the first quarter. Abille scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half as things went into cruise mode.We've become an all-around team, said senior Beth Robinson, this season's scoring leader on a team notorious for its offensive balance. We've improved our mental game.We knew we couldn't treat this as any different from any other game, Robinson said, even though it was bound to be more emotional, being against Olympic and being our last home game. I think our maturity brings that mental focus.We've been playing together for a long time, Abille added of the way the Cougars' offense was able to score easily and repeatedly. We know each other really well. You get to where you know what the other people are thinking, and you anticipate what they're going to do.Central also has gotten accustomed to working things around Llewellyn, a 6-foot-1 post who got limited playing time last year but has become a force at both ends this season.It really opens things up for everybody, Baxter said of the Cougars' post game. Everybody on this team is so good about distributing the ball, and that just gives us one more facet to our offense.For Hurd, it was time to look ahead.I'm pleased our junior varsity team finished with a winning season, he said. We've got our nucleus, it looks like, a pretty good group of eight or nine.The Trojans will lose their two top scorers, however, when senior guards Janel Gillies - also the program's all-time steals leader - and Shar Agee graduate."

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