Wesco 4A North girls basketball preview

Key questions

  • How will Lake Stevens respond without Pahukoa sisters?

There is no getting around the fact that Brooke and Brittney Pahukoa were special players that don’t come around often.

There is also no getting around the fact they would one day graduate and the Vikings would have to play on. The twins graduated in June and are attending Boise State University, while those that remain are getting ready for another high-school basketball season.

“We are going to try to play much the same as we always have,” Lake Stevens head coach Randall Edens said. “I don’t think anything has really changed. It’s just they (the Pahukoas) brought some different things that we haven’t had to the table.”

Senior Kali Long will lead the way for the Vikings. She will be joined by juniors Alex Briggs and senior Emily Vandegrift as the only key returning varsity players. Long is a four-year player for Lake Stevens and has been to three state tournaments, so the team would appear to be in good hands.

“Last year she kind of picked up a bigger role and this year we’re going to be leaning on her at times,” Edens said. “She’s got to stay out of foul trouble and lead by example and sometimes take the team on her back if we’re struggling.”

Edens said his team is young and expects it will have some growing pains along the way, but hopes to be playing its best basketball late in the season in February. “For us to get it done it’s certainly going to have to be a collective effort moving forward,” Edens said.

  • Can Arlington build off of second-place finish?

The Eagles were perhaps the biggest surprise in the area a season ago, following a season in which they finished just one game over .500 in league with a second-place finish at the state tournament.

That run was led by point guard Krista Showalter and forward Lindsay Brown, both of whom graduated in June. Losing their two best players doesn’t necessarily mean the Eagles are doomed. They do return two players who were also instrumental in that run, sophomore forward Jayla Russ and junior guard Jessica Ludwig.

Russ was forced into action as a freshman when Veronica Ladines was lost for the season broke her finger late in the season, but the Eagles never missed a beat. Russ even had some of her best games under the brightest lights in the Tacoma Dome.

“She’s spent a lot of time this summer playing and working on her game and I think she’s expanded her game a little bit,” Arlington head coach Joe Marsh said. “This year we are looking to her to be more of an inside-out threat.”

The state experience could prove to be invaluable for Russ this season.

“We’re hoping that experience carries over into this year because she’s probably going to have to be more than just a sophomore for us,” Marsh said.

Along with Russ, Ludwig also started for the Eagles during the playoff run of a year ago. The junior guard will carry even more on her shoulders this season.

“I think between her and Jayla, they are going to carry more of the offensive load,” Marsh said.

Replacing Showalter is sophomore point guard Emma Janousek, who Marsh said is a great defender with a high basketball IQ. Russ, Ludwig and Janousek join Lyndsay Leatherman, who is the team’s only key returning senior.

“I’m hoping those kids will be able to step in and just take off from where they left off last year,” Marsh said.

The Starting 5: The Herald’s Preseason All-League Team

  • F Alyssa Evans, Sr., Mount Vernon: Evans is the only All-Wesco 4A north first-teamer who returns this season.
  • P Jayla Russ, So., Arlington: As a freshman, Russ emerged late in the season and helped the Eagles to a second place finish in the 4A state tournament.
  • P Kali Long, Sr., Lake Stevens: Without Brooke and Brittney Pahukoa, the Vikings will need Long to lead their offensive attack in her senior season.
  • P Madeline Smith, So., Snohomish: As a sophomore, Smith is poised for a breakout season for the Panthers.
  • G Diedra Miller, Sr., Monroe: One of just two seniors on the team, Miller will be a leader on a Bearcats team looking to challenge for a Wesco North championship.

Player to watch: Madeline Smith, Snohomish

Smith gives Snohomish a dominating presence in the post and will be a difficult guard for the other teams in the league.

“She’s honestly the most dominating freshman post we’ve had and we’ve had some good posts since I’ve been there,” Snohomish head coach Ken Roberts said. “She did the most as a freshman as far as rebounding and as far as points.”

Smith performed her best in the district tournament, reaching double digits in both points and rebounds in two of the games.

“I would think that she’ll be able to build on that this year because of the fact that we do have more support around her offensively than we had last year,” Roberts said. “We’re going to be able to score a lot more consistently and people aren’t going to be able to help (defensively) on her as much.”

Roberts also praised her consistency and leadership despite the fact she is just a sophomore.

Fresh Face: Madison Pollock, So., Snohomish

After spending her freshman season at Archbishop Murphy, Pollock transferred to Snohomish and will play a key role for the Panthers as a sophomore.

“She’s got a chance to be a pretty good player for us,” Snohomish head coach Ken Roberts said.

Pollock grew up in the Snohomish school system, so she is very familiar with her new teammates which should make the transition even more smooth.

“She’s a very good athletic talent,” Roberts said. “She’s 6-1 and can handle the ball and play some guard or post. She’s just a real solid player.”

Roberts said he isn’t sure exactly where Pollock will play, but her versatility gives him options. The Panthers had a lot of success with their previous point guard Morgan Green and Roberts said Pollock is capable of playing that position if needed.

“I’m going to start her out at kind of a forward spot, but she can handle the ball if we need her to do that,” Roberts said. “Her versatility is really going to help us out.”

Coaches poll

1. Snohomish

2. Arlington

3. Lake Stevens

4. Monroe

5. Mount Vernon

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