Reloaded Loggers aim for state berth

After the 2010-11 season, coaches around the Northwest 1A/2B League couldn’t be blamed for thinking the Darrington girls basketball program was due for a few rebuilding years.

Not only did the Loggers graduate a large group of seniors off a team that had just won the league title and finished fifth at state, but longtime coach Ben Bryson was stepping down and there were only three upperclassmen coming up, including no juniors.

The Loggers looked ripe for the picking.

But those around the program, including new coach Jeff Anderson, knew better.

Relying on a group of six sophomores who have been playing together since they could barely dribble, Anderson guided the Loggers to the verge of the state tournament in his inaugural season. This year, that group, now juniors, has Darrington off to a 10-2 start, including a 43-37 win over La Conner, which at 8-2 is the Loggers’ main threat at keeping them from their second league title in three years.

“I think a lot of teams thought when that group of seniors leave Darrington is going to be down, but I knew we weren’t going to be down,” Anderson said of the 2010 group. “I hate to say I expected this because you never know, but I knew the girls had the mental toughness and will to do this.”

If anyone knows this team it’s Anderson. The second-year coach has been coaching the group of six juniors — which includes his own daughter, Riley, Monica Franke, Casandra Cousins, Devan Wilson, Amy Miles and Madison Schoneman — since they were in the third grade. He realized early on that these girls could be special.

“When they were in DJAA (Darrington Junior Athletic Association) when we played in Arlington we very seldom lost and that’s not typical when we play Arlington,” Anderson said. “Even when they were in third and fourth grade they were running plays for me at that level.”

That continuity — Anderson said that between this year’s junior and sophomore classes only one player has left the group since they were kids — has led to a familiarity that comes in quite handy in the game of basketball.

“We’re more like sisters than teammates,” said Riley Anderson, who is the team’s de facto spokesperson. “I know what she’s going to do when she goes to the basket and I know that she’s going to pass when she looks away. We just know what we’re going to do.”

Last year as sophomores they had their growing pains. Even though there were three seniors on the team, including all-league post Jessica Brooks, the group of sophomores took up the mantle of leadership. But the physical disparity and inexperience showed at times. That experience has paid big dividends now and has the Loggers thinking state.

“This group came in as sophomores and played a lot of varsity ball,” Anderson said. “It was rough early, but that’s helped a lot now.”

Ever since they were kids, Miles has been the team’s natural leader on the court — “We all look to her,” said Devan Wilson — and its most prolific scorer, but it almost didn’t happen. Anderson said he had to actually talk the soft-spoken Miles into playing when she was a kid. He’s glad he was able to persuade her.

“You could see it when she was younger,” Anderson said of Miles’ natural ability. “She’s just an athlete. That’s just something you can’t coach.”

One thing the group of girls learned was dissension and negativity sows defeat.

“We had a bad snowball effect: we’d start the game’s bad and it would lead to a bad result,” said Miles, who leads the Loggers in scoring averaging nearly 12 points per game. “This year we’ve changed it and it’s worked for us so far.”

A good example of that was the Dec. 28 game against 4A Mount Vernon. The Loggers, playing against a team four classifications above them and physically bigger than them, fell behind early and trailed by 18 at halftime. But instead of hanging their heads, the Loggers rallied in the second half and actually closed the gap to just four points before losing a tight contest.

“We’ve seen that from other teams at state,” said Franke, who also emphasized that the junior group has also made the underclassmen feel like a part of the team as well. “They’re bad attitudes brought them down and they got mad at each other and you can’t do that and win.”

They’ve even brought one teammate back from desertion. Madison Schoneman, who grew up playing with the group, returned this year to basketball after taking a year off to cheer as a sophomore.

“I missed my team,” said Schoneman.

This year’s team is one in a long line of successful girls basketball teams to come out of Darrington. The Loggers have been to state 15 times since 1983, including a stretch of six appearances in eight years starting in 1989.

Besides a strong youth program, Anderson chalks up the success of Darrington basketball to parent and fan support. “Parents are very involved in the girls sports here,” Anderson said. “They travel with them, help fundraise and support them. The parents have a lot to do with these girls’ success.”

Riley Anderson said that support was obvious during the biggest game of the season so far.

“When we played La Conner our crowd was just as big as their’s and we were on their court,” Riley said. “Whenever we can hear (our crowd) it makes us feel at home.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Tennessee's Natalie Hayward, an Archbishop Murphy graduate, serves during a game against Texas Tech on Aug. 27, 2021, in Knoxville, TN. (University of Tennessee athletics)
Murphy grad leads Tennessee volleyball into national spotlight

Setter Natalie Hayward has won three SEC Player of the Week awards this season for the 21st-ranked Lady Vols.

Jackson's Avery Friedricksen jumps to trap the ball during the game against Glacier Peak on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021 in Snohomish, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Jackson girls soccer rallies past GP for shared Wesco 4A title

Kaeden Hansen nets a pair of 2nd-half goals and the Timberwolves win 2-1 to split the league crown.

California running back Christopher Brooks (34) scores a touchdown as Washington State defensive lineman Jesus Echevarria (78) and others watch in the first quarter of an NCAA football game in Berkeley, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Community roundup: Murphy alum earns scholarship at WSU

Jesus Echevarria is awarded for his hard work, Washington Golf honors local standouts, and more.

White line on Green grass sport field for sport concept
Prep results for Tuesday, Oct. 26

Prep results for Tuesday, Oct. 26: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Seattle Kraken center Ryan Donato, second from right, celebrates with teammates Jared McCann (16) and Adam Larsson, right, as Montreal Canadiens center Cedric Paquette (13) looks on after Donato scored a goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Seattle. The Kraken won 5-1. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Kraken topple Canadiens 5-1 for first home win

Brandon Tanev scores twice as Seattle nabs its first win at Climate Pledge Arena.

Atlanta Braves' Dansby Swanson scores past Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro on a sacrifice fly during the eighth inning of Game 1 in baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Braves top Astros in Game 1 of World Series

Atlanta overcomes an injury to starting pitcher Charlie Morton to beat Houston 6-2.

Monroe’s Iseah Canizales attempts a reception over Snohomish’s Joshua Vandergriend Friday night at Monroe High School on October 22, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
3 takeaways from Week 8 of prep football in Snohomish County

Monroe-Snohomish may’ve been the game of the year. Also, Kamiak proved doubters wrong in a close loss.

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Rasheem Green (94) brings down New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Grading the Seahawks in their 13-10 loss to the Saints

The offense receives a failing grade as Seattle continues to miss quarterback Russell Wilson.

Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers (5) walks off the field after missing a field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Seattle. The Saints won 13-10. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Lifeless offense, late mistakes plague Seahawks in loss

Seattle’s offense sputtered, the defense committed costly penalties and Jason Meyers missed 2 FGs.

Most Read