By Mike Cane Herald Writer
Get ready for another exciting winter, hoops fans. Here are four big questions that will be answered by local teams during the upcoming 2010-2011 high school girls basketball season.
1. Can anyone slow down Monroe’s speedy backcourt?
Speed kills, and the Monroe Bearcats have LOTS of it.
After zooming around the court together last season, ultra-quick guards Suzanna Ohlsen and Alyssa Brazel are back for the Bearcats, who went 17-6 in 2009-2010 and won a share of the Western Conference North Division title but missed out on a coveted trip to the Class 4A state tournament. The 5-foot-8 Ohlsen, a Seattle Pacific University recruit, and 5-7 Brazel combined to average 29.7 points and 10.7 steals per game.
Including the two guards, Monroe returns seven varsity letterwinners. The Bearcats also received a huge addition to their already loaded backcourt when former Sultan guard Bianca O’Hara transferred to Monroe. O’Hara, a senior who played one season for Monroe coach Rodney Walker when Walker coached at Sultan, averaged 18.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 steals and 3.7 assists last season for the 2A Turks. She received all-league first team honors for the second straight year.
“She’s an outstanding player — really athletic and she can score,” Walker said.
With Ohlsen, Brazel and O’Hara, “we’ve got three really good guards,” said Walker, noting that each of them can bring the ball up the court and lead Monroe’s often devastating fast break.
2. Which team will rule Wesco 4A?
The revised Wesco North, which now includes only 4A squads, is packed with talented, experienced teams. That should make for incredibly competitive games.
“Our league is probably one of the toughest in the state,” Monroe’s Walker said. “Every night’s going to be a dogfight.”
Snohomish girls basketball coach Ken Roberts said the North favorite is Monroe, followed by Stanwood, reigning league co-champ Marysville-Pilchuck and Lake Stevens. All four teams have the potential to make noise in the postseason, he said. M-P and Lake Stevens both advanced to state last season and bring back numerous important contributors.
“I feel that the top four teams in the North are all good enough to be in the top 20 in the state,” Roberts said.
In the now-smaller Wesco South 4A league, defending South champion Edmonds-Woodway might be the best Wesco team of all and is considered a contender to win the state championship.
Keep in mind this interesting change for Wesco: Teams in the revised North 4A and South 4A divisions play each team in their own division twice and play one crossover game against every team in the opposite division. All those games will count in the respective league standings.
Coached by Duane Hodges, Edmonds-Woodway returns every player from the Warriors squad that placed fifth in the state in March. Leading the way for the vastly experienced E-W team are five players who received all-league honors last season: forward Angela Woods (All-Wesco South first team), 6-1 forward Sydney Donaldson (second team), 6-0 center Ashley Albertson (second team), and guards Madeline Kasper and Alex Kenney (both honorable mention).
All five girls averaged at least nine points, led by Woods’ 15.2 per game. Albertson averaged a double-double (10.6 points, 13.0 rebounds) and Donaldson, a Western Washington University recruit, averaged 10.6 points and 7.0 boards.
“There’s definitely a target on our back,” coach Hodges said. “We realize that, and we could even see that this past spring and fall when people played us.”
However, E-W might not be the 4A state favorite. Federal Way is “the most talented team,” Hodges said. The Warriors beat Federal Way 55-52 last season in a state loser-out game, but Federal Way defeated E-W twice in a fall league.
3. Can retooled Archbishop Murphy maintain its supremacy?
Archbishop Murphy has compiled some impressive streaks: 48 straight victories in Class 2A/1A Cascade Conference games, three consecutive conference titles and two consecutive district titles.
However, following the graduation of all five starters — including league MVP Sam Pettinger, and all-league first team picks Shelby Lyman and Savannah Fletcher — the Wildcats appear more vulnerable than they’ve been in a long time. According to Murphy coach John Barhanovich, the starters who graduated accounted for 70 percent of the team’s scoring, 66 percent of its rebounds and 70 percent of its made 3-point shots.
Murphy’s top returning scorer is 6-2 sophomore post Beth Carlson, who averaged 7.0 points as a freshman.
Said Barhanovich: “I think the two (Cascade Conference) teams that can challenge us this year are King’s and Cedarcrest.”
4. Will Meadowdale bounce back?
The newly formed eight-team Wesco 3A league looks tough. Two 2010 3A state participants — Lynnwood and district champ Shorecrest — are expected to be better than last season, and Glacier Peak and Meadowdale are always competitive. Plus, three former 4A teams — Oak Harbor, Mountlake Terrace and Shorewood — joined the mix.
Speaking of Meadowdale, the Mavericks had an incredible streak end last season. They qualified for state 14 consecutive years from 1996-2009 but were eliminated at the district tournament in 2010.
Based on The Herald’s preseason coaches’ poll, Meadowdale is predicted to finish among the top half of the new league. It will be extremely challenging, but maybe the Mavericks — guided by coach Troy Parker — can start a new state streak.
Mike Cane: email@example.com. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam and follow Cane on Twitter at MikeCaneHerald.