It's their turn

"In 6-foot-1 Cassie Llewellyn and 5-1 Sunshine Monastrial, Central Kitsap High School girls basketball coach Denise Baxter knew she would have the long and short of it covered for this season.She wasn't so sure about what would be going on inbetween.A lot of those questions have been answered, in preseason practices and in the Cougars' season-opening 49-32 victory over Stadium Tuesday night. A strong, versatile sophomore class and some heady role-players have filled the ranks of a CK team gutted by graduation and helped erase any doubts Baxter might've had about her team's ability to contend for a district playoff spot this season.When it came to the two veterans she did have on the roster, though, Baxter never had any doubts.I've only got two seniors, she said, but they're two pretty good ones.Class standing might not have meant much in a group that included two of the biggest stars from last year's undefeated Ridgetop Junior High team, and the much-lauded Nicole Zygmontowicz, a new arrival via Klahowya Junior High. If anything, the term sophomore-dominated might've been the label slapped on this year's Cougars.So Baxter said she was impressed not just that her two elder statesmen were elected co-captains, but by the manner of the election. No recounts were necessary.The first vote was unanimous, Baxter said. I thought that said a lot about the respect the two of them had from their teammates.The two seniors said they felt ready to assume the leadership mantle. Both have paid dues, playing behind the nucleus that included two-time all-leaguer Beth Robinson until it graduated last spring.We've had lots of time to stand back and watch, Llewellyn said. Those players showed us how to do it.It's better for us that we had to wait, added Monastrial. We got the experience we needed. Now we hold the reins, and we can lead.Last year's West Central District-qualifying team lost eight seniors to graduation. Then promising guard Anna Garner, a junior this year, moved out of the district.But any apprehension Llewellyn and Monastrial had about carrying the torch into this season was allayed when they played summer ball with some of their new mates.We played with (sophomores) Adria (Layne) and Sheniel (Gitelson, both members of last year's 12-0 Ridgetop team), Monastrial said.Ms. Baxter told us about Nicole, too, that she was a good player, Llewellyn added of Zygmontowicz, who spent the fall juggling her soccer duties with the CK varsity and Premier-1 Norpoint FC '84 with basketball open gyms at Olympic College. We realized they'd all be assets to the team.Llewellyn gives the Cougars an inside presence, a surprisingly quick post player who can provide points and rebounds in bunches. Monastrial knows and can run the offense, as well as contributing darts of quickness on defense.Joining them is a group that is short on high school experience, but long on basketball skills, athletic ability and winning attitude.We've all got good basketball savvy, Monastrial said. (The new players) are all really versatile.It's a versatility that Baxter, a devotee uptempo motion offense and pressure defense, relishes.Adria can play the 2, 3, 4 or 5; Nikki can play the 1, 2, 3 or 4, Baxter said of the two athletic newcomers. We've got a lot of kids like that who can do a lot of different things.The combination looks like a winner to Llewellyn, who is gunning for her third trip to districts in as many varsity seasons.In my mind, district is something we could definitely do, she said. We have such a good team chemistry, I feel like we might have a better chance (at a postseason victory) than in the past.I'm excited to see what happens. "

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