BOTHELL — A move up in classification can spell doom for a high school sports team. But not every squad has the kind of talent the Lynnwood girls’ basketball team has.
The Royals jump from 3A to 4A this year — they will compete in the Wesco 4A South — but the move is not expected to affect them much. The league’s coaches picked the Royals to be among the favorites.
“It was something that was real exciting for us,” Lynnwood coach Everett Edwards said of the move to 4A. “We would have a chance to play against Jackson and Edmonds-Woodway, Lake Stevens and Snohomish and Arlington and all those new teams. Obviously we had a really good rivalry with Glacier Peak and Shorecrest and a lot of the teams that we played (in 3A), but it was more exciting to know that we were going to get the chance to play in some different gyms and see some different teams.”
Last season, the Royals fell one win short of playing in the 3A state regionals. Arsenia Ivanov and Jasmin Edwards, two of the Royals’ leaders this season, said moving up to the 4A level won’t change the way the team plays.
“We are just still going to play the same way we have,” Ivanov said. “So it’s still going to be the same offense, the same defense and we are just going to play the same way we have.”
Two key members of last year’s team, Meghan Cross and Casey Evans, graduated and star post Mokun Fajemisin, who missed her senior season with an injury, is gone as well. But the Royals have a group of strong young players, led by Mikayla Pivec and Jordyn Edwards.
“We lost some seniors and we also got new freshman in,” Jasmin Edwards said, “and so it’s like kind of a whole new start. Same mentality of going in and playing hard and trying to make our goals, just at a higher level.”
The idea of being one of the favorites doesn’t seem to intimidate these girls.
“I think as a program we have always been looked at as the underdog, but now, our coach always says that we are the ones with the target on our back now,” Ivanov said. “So we know that we have a target on our back and teams are gunning for us, but we are still just going to get after it.”
The weakness of this year’s Royals team might also be its strength. Lynnwood lacks size inside, but what the Royals do have is speed and the ability to shoot the basketball at a high level. Lynnwood’s opponents can expect a swarming defense and a run-and-gun style of play that is sure to wear some teams down.
“Our defense is what’s going to take us far,” Ivanov said.
“We have a lot of heart,” Jasmin Edwards added. “We may be small, but we make up for it with our hustle and our defense, just getting after it and making people uncomfortable. As long we bring that every time, that is going to be our best thing as well as shooting.”
Ivanov and Jasmin Edwards like that the Royals have earned the respect of the other teams, but aren’t ready to let go of that underdog role just yet.
“We feel like we are still considered the underdog until we prove to everyone that we are at the top,” Jasmin Edwards said. “So as long as we go in not being too cocky or feeling like we are the best and playing with that underdog mentality, we feel like we can get that role of being the top team.”
One of the things the Royals have to do to get to the top of the league is protect their home court, something Ivanov and Edwards said is made easier by their loyal fans.
“We feed so much off the crowd, it’s great,” Jasmin Edwards said.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.