Living in the paint

Lukas Henne, a 6-foot-6 senior post player for Central Kitsap, uses his leap and slight height advantage over Olympic 6-foot-5 post player Brendan Campbell to pick up a defensive rebound for the Cougars during the teams’ jamboree game Saturday. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Lukas Henne, a 6-foot-6 senior post player for Central Kitsap, uses his leap and slight height advantage over Olympic 6-foot-5 post player Brendan Campbell to pick up a defensive rebound for the Cougars during the teams’ jamboree game Saturday.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Thump, thump, swish. Thump, thump, swish. That’s the sound local preps have been making all across Central Kitsap as they ready for big-time basketball action. From King’s West to Klahowya to Central Kitsap to Olympic, boys and girls alike have laced up their high tops with a long road of hardwood ahead of them. Here is their story:


What’s more important? A good record or a team that plays competitively night in and night out?

For coach Al Gleich, it’s the team that plays its guts out every night.

“I had a great year last year,” said Gleich, now in his second season leading Central Kitsap. “We didn’t have the best record at 5-15 but we definitely were competitive for all but a couple of games and that was my goal to be at least competitiive.”

The road to Narrows League success remains rocky for the Cougars who are picked to finish near the bottom of the Bridge Division in preseason polls.

“We have to finish in the Top 4 in the Bridge Division and that’s a tough road,” Gleich said after practice Saturday morning. “On paper, right now, if you ask any of the coaches in the League, Olympic and CK would be at the bottom right now. So to finish in the Top 4 is going to be an accomplishment in this league.

“From there you never know what happens. If you make playoffs, you have a good shot at the state tournament which is our ultimate goal.”

But don’t count the Cougs out just yet. They have an outside presence in shooters in Aaron Brien, Marcus McKay and Sam Weller. Inside they counter with big men Lukas Henne, Brice Brooks, Lee Miller and transfer student Kyle Anderson, a 6-foot-2 senior from Alaska. And the combination of an outside-inside presence should work well in the Bridge Division.

“It’s going to be a big mans’ league and there’s also quickness in the league,” Gleich said. “We don’t have an easy game on our schedule. There’s no easy nights.”



At a healthy 6-foot-7, plus a couple extra inches in thick blonde curls, Joshua Beahan is the tallest member on King’s West boys team. This year he will probably be the best shot blocker for the team, as well as a scoring threat.

In a recent practice he has the ball palmed, and one of his teammates is asking him to dunk it.

“Not right now,” he says in a calm voice.

Beahan has his work cut out for him this year, filling in for last year’s center Blake Anderson, who tore his ACL this summer.

“He’s going to have to dominate the middle. He has to be an intimidator,” said coach Rick Walker, now in his 10th season with the Warriors.

Last year the Warriors managed a 12-11 overall record. They return to the hardwood with some senior leadership in captains Brandin Jones and Peder Rauen at guards, but with tough competition coming from teams such as Sea-Tac League rivals Evergreen Lutheran, the entire team needs to gel this year to be competitive.

Jones also is a defensive leader and Walker hopes that will inspire the other players.

“We need to develop a deeper bench. We only have six players that have returned from last year that have a lot of playing experience,” Walker said.

So far, the coach has noticed more team unity compared to last year. Currently he is trying to get the boys playing confidently and increasing their intensity.

“Everyone has a sense of responsibility because we don’t have a go-to scorer,” assistant George Boggs said.



Sometimes you just have to throw the best talent on the floor and forget about seniority. That’s what fourth-year coach Scott McMinds is doing this season with the Eagles.

“Four juniors and a sophomore are going to get the majority of the playing time,” McMinds said. “Some of the seniors have been in the program awhile but they probably won’t see much playing time.”

The Eagles also are missing their tallest player in 6-foot-6 senior Justin Wick who hasn’t turned in his physical yet.

“He was going to be our starting center and that hurts us,” McMinds said, adding that he hopes Wick comes back next week.

Leading the Eagles are senior captians Dusty Rasmussen and Charlie Merry who add plenty of firepower to the team’s potent offense along with sixth man Jared Ottmar.

“These kids can score,” McMinds said. “But we haven’t been very good at stopping people. We’ll see. It’s a long season and we’re in a tough league. But just like last year (when the Eagles went 2-11 in the Nisqually League), any team on any given night can step it up. If we don’t bring our ‘A’ game we’re going to find ourselves on the short end of the stick.”

The goals on Newberry Hill are simple. McMinds said he’d like the team to finish with at least a .500 record so it has a good seed at sub-districts and a strong shot at districts where the Top 2 teams advance to state.

“If we can stop teams, I know we can score,” McMinds said. “I believe these guys can step up and surprise some teams.”



Coaching high school sports requires a bit of flexiblity. That’s the lesson Oly boys coach Robert Polk had to learn over the past few years as the Trojans hitched their fortunes to the long-range shot without too much success.

Now the team, which only posted one win in the Bridge Division last season, has a new game plan that relies less on the perimeter and more on an inside force.

“It’s going to go back to the way I’m used to coaching,” said Polk, now in his sixth season at Olympic. “We have some quality big guys and frankly, we don’t have the same shooters we’ve had over the past years in Casey Manchester and Geoff Kelstrup. So the philosophy has to retool to fit the personnel that we have.”

That personnel includes a pair of 6-foot-5 forwards in senior Joshua Johnson and junior Brendan Campbell who beefed up over a summer of playing basketball at the Tacoma Community College Summer League and several basketball camps.

“We’re trying to get the ball into the post so we’re getting 15-foot shots in,” Campbell said.

That’s going to require a lot of patience on the Trojans’ part.

“We’re going to run and take our shots when we have the chance,” Polk said. “We need to be patient and take the best shot we can get. If that means passing the ball around for 45 minutes, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Polk also has pressed a new emphasis on conditioning (a team weakness last season) and defense.

“How our defense goes will dictate how we do on offense,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll create some opportunities to get some points off turnovers and defensive rebounding.”


The expectations are high in the land of the Orange and Black.

With two-time All-League players Adria Layne and Nicole Zygmontowicz back along with Sheena Stangler, Noel Gregory and role seniors Jaime Gilbert and Annette Ecklund, they make up a core for the Cougars that will offset the inexperience of four talented sophmores on the roster.

“The four sophomores are going to have an impact,” ninth-year coach Denise Baxter said. “Emily Zygmontowicz will start but some still need to get their feet wet.

“The biggest question with them is their defense. I don’t have a problem with their offensive skills — they’ll make good decisions. It’s will they be able to keep up defensively and not get into foul trouble? It’s just stepping up to a higher level. We play a bit more man-to-man than they are used to so they have to play disciplined and in position.”

Baxter said there’s plenty of parity in the League this year, but the girls have a good shot at postseason glory after winning their first district game last season without the elder Zygmontowicz on the roster after she tore her ACL in an earlier game.

“I have high expectations every year,” Baxter said. I want to go to the state tournament and that’s how we practice. We practice as if we’re one of the best teams so there’s no surprise my expectations are high. Our seniors have been to districts two straight years. They know where they want to go and winning just one game is not going to be enough for them. They want to get out of districts.”



Who ever said basketball players don’t score big points in the classroom too?

King’s West girls team has a combined 3.75 grade point average this year, and they are geared to play thinking-cap basketball.

“I’ll show them a play and they will get it the first time,” said their impressed first-year coach, Kelly Kolb.

Last year the girls went 18-7 and came within one game of the state tournament. This year they have some fresh blood in 5-foot-7 guard Katie O’Brien and 5-11 forward Susan Cooper.

Returning starters are Taryn Hanley, Amanda Hart and Gitta Rauen, who can switch it up as forwards and guards. Also returning is Natalie Mansfield, a stable ball handler at guard.

“We are 13 deep this year,” Kolb said. “All 13 players will play critical minutes this year and provide significant contributions.

“The emphasis will definitely be on defense this year. It is going to be brutal.”

The Warriors have a lot of speed, and they’ve got nice shooting strokes from top to bottom.

“I think a potential weakness is that we’re young. We have seven juniors and five sophomores on the roster,” he said.

Many of the girls playing varsity this year haven’t had the pressure of playing districts. It may take a couple games for them to get acquainted to their Class B competition.



It’s not easy wearing Klahowya green. A new coach every couple of seasons and plenty of seasons of disappointment have seen to that.

Yet there’s plenty of hope as far as new coach Tim McFadden is concerned.

“It’s tough to teach the girls a whole new system in 10 days but defensively, the girls are right where I expected them to be,” he said. “I think we’ll force other teams to do other things they don’t want them to do. And offensively we look to the fast break first because we have some girls that can run the floor.

“As the girls get in better shape we’ll be able to do more things we want to do.”



There’s a bit more gray in the moustache, but the fire to coach the Lady Trojans is still alive within Jerry Hurd — now in his 19th season with the team.

“I feel good about what we’ve done at Olympic,” said Hurd who started coaching 30 years ago. “I still have the fire. I look at it as giving girls an opportunity and I’m proud of our academics. In the 19 years I’ve been there we’ve had a 3.25 grade point average. I’ll keep coaching as long as they let me.”

The Lady Trojans appeared rusty at times during their jamboree at King’s West Saturday afternoon, a fact Hurd acknowledged afterwards.

“I was pleased, but we have some kinks to work out,” he said. “Our man offense needs a bit more movement. The kids aren’t sure of it, just kind of standing around. But that’s why we do the jamborees to see how we do against competition. I like our half-court defense. I was more concerned with getting up and down the floor and getting a feel for the offense.”

Leading the offense’s direction is junior guard Lindsey Neste who will be looking for senior Kim Fairbanks on the inside. There’s also plenty of support from Kate Lucas, Katie Sweet and Shakira Dixson.

“We’ll be deep enough that we’ll be able to push the ball and play a lot more aggressive defense.” Hurd said. “We have the bodies to shuffle people in and out to keep the pressure on. Teams usually go seven, eight deep and one of our plusses is we’ll be able to go nine deep.”

With that deep of a bench, Hurd said the Trojans should be competitive and among the top teams in the Bridge Division.


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