Five storylines to watch from the local girls basketball scene this winter:
1. Lake Stevens and Glacier Peak are seen as the favorites in Wesco 4A. The Vikings will be led by Gonzaga commit Kylee Griffen, who should be the best player in the conference. But sophomore guard Raigan Reed is poised for a breakthrough of her own. Reed received honorable mention on the All-Wesco 4A team a year ago is already starting to attract attention from NCAA Division I programs.
“I see Kylee Griffen having a fantastic year. She is a difficult player to guard, and has a second-year point guard in Reed who can get her the ball,” Kamiak coach Brian Norman said.
Glacier Peak placed second at last year’s Class 4A state tournament, but lost its three best players to Division I programs. They return two starters — Abby Abbie Juozapaitis, who received All-Wesco 4A honorable mention a season ago, and lockdown defender Nicole Jensen — and have high hopes for transfer Alexyss Newman, from Arizona.
Kamiak advanced to the 4A state tournament in each of the past two seasons, but lost the bulk of its production to graduation.
2. Snohomish and Stanwood are the class of Wesco 3A. Snohomish took third place at last year’s 3A state tournament and returns most of its roster, including All-Wesco 3A selections Kyra Beckman and Maya Duchesne.
Stanwood has a similar story — the Spartans advanced to the 3A state tournament last year and return all but one of their players from that team. They’ve got three players signed on to continue their careers in college — seniors Jillian Heichel (), Kaitlin Larson () and Ashley Alter (Seattle Pacific).
While Snohomish and Stanwood are in a tier of their own, the next group of teams is filled with with talent and potential.
“This Edmonds-Woodway team is young and has no seniors, but hopes to build on the playoff success it had last year when it was playing mostly underclassmen,” Warriors coach Jon Rasmussen said.
Lynnwood lost a lot of talent to graduation during the past two years, but should be in the mix. And “Arlington is expecting to be improved this year,” Eagles coach Joe Marsh said. “We hope to get back to competing near the top of the league. We have a mix of experience and youth.”
3. Archbishop Murphy is favored to win the Cascade Conference. The Wildcats won the conference title and advanced to the 2A state tournament last season and return eight players from that team, including reigning conference most valuable player Emily Rodabaugh, as well as all-conference selections Olivia Riojas and Maddie Hill. Cedarcrest should also be a factor, led by all-conference picks Haley Hill and Elaine Townley.
4. Jackson is primed for postseason contention. The Timberwolves have posted a 19-33 record over the past two seasons, but are positioned to take a big leap forward this winter.
“Jackson has improved in each of the last couple years, and with a core of juniors could take a big step towards challenging for the Wesco (title) and state regionals,” Kamiak coach Brian Norman said.
Their hopes mostly revolve around the potential of their five juniors, all 5-foot-10 or taller — Caitlin Monten, Alexa Martin, Megan Mattison, Lauren Schillberg and All-Wesco 4A second-team pick Olivia Skibiel.
“Jackson is the up-and-comer,” Lake Stevens coach Randy Edens said.
5. Julia Strand could be a big X-factor. Strand was one of Shorecrest’s best players two years ago, a big part of the Scots’ 2A state championship-winning team as a sophomore. She sat out the vast majority of last season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Assuming she’s close to 100 percent healthy, she should be one of the better players in the Wesco 3A, and Shorecrest should be firmly in playoff contention under new coach Carlos Humphrey.