Tsunamis keep name, help victims of tragedy

At first it just seemed like a cool name.

In November, a group of third- and fourth-grade students from Seattle Hill Elementary School in Everett called their youth girls basketball team the Tsunamis. The creative moniker always left opponents scratching their heads, thinking “What the heck is a Tsunami?”

But when earthquake-fueled tidal waves devastated south Asia Dec. 26, everyone suddenly became quite aware of tsunamis and their incredibly destructive force. Dave Bianchini, coach of the Tsunamis and vice principal at Granite Falls Middle School, almost immediately called his players together. They had to change their name.

Or did they? Traci Bianchini, Dave’s wife and a long-time area prep cross country coach, suggested the team keep its name and turn the situation into a positive. The Tsunamis agreed and decided to help survivors of the disaster. For every basket the Tsunamis scored, players and parents would donate 25 cents to one of several Northwest organizations providing international relief efforts, including World Concern, located in Seattle, and Portland-based Mercy Corps.

“Athletics are great for kids,” Dave Bianchini said, “but there’s always something outside that’s a lot bigger. We’re able to show them there’s ways we can help. Helping out is part of life.”

The Tsunamis have a scrimmage Wednesday against another Seattle Hill team, the Storm, during halftime of the Snohomish-Lake Stevens high school girls game, which starts at 7:30 p.m. at Snohomish High School. Thanks in part to junior Megan Whelen, who is an assistant coach for the Tsunamis and plays for the Panthers junior varsity, Snohomish has joined the effort. The Panthers are encouraging attendees to donate 10 cents per point (Snohomish averages 65.6 points per game, which would result in a donation of $6.56). Those wishing to contribute can fill out pledge sheets before the game. Cash and checks will be accepted.

Snohomish coach Ken Roberts has set up weekly community service projects for his team this season. Joining forces with the Tsunamis is just another way to give back.

“I just felt it’d be something real good for our girls to do,” he said. “We’ve been doing community service things every Monday to help our girls understand that there’s a bigger world out there than Snohomish basketball.”

Katie Bianchini, Dave and Traci’s 9-year-old daughter, plays for the Tsunamis, who have donated money they received as Christmas presents and whatever they stored up in piggy banks.

“We want to help out because we heard how bad the tsunami was and how much it hurt people,” she said. “We didn’t want our name to be hurtful…and we wanted to help out so we could keep it.”

Wesco wrestling snares Friday night spotlight: On Friday, the Western Conference will showcase wrestling, which is usually held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Wesco athletic directors agreed on the change last summer, bumping boys and girls basketball from Friday to Saturday to allow more parents and students to support their local grapplers.

Everett High athletic director Jo Levin said she believes it’s the first time something like this has been done to highlight regular-season Wesco wrestling.

“Everyone has been real supportive of this,” Levin said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Lake Stevens wrestling coach Brent Barnes, whose team hosts Oak Harbor at 7 p.m. Friday, has wanted recognition like this for prep wrestling for a long time.

“It’s something that we’ve worked on for quite a while,” he said. “It’d be nice to showcase our sport on a Friday when all the students can come and see it. It’s something to be able to sell our sport a little bit.”

Other Wesco North meets include Arlington at Marysville-Pilchuck, Monroe at Cascade and Stanwood at Mount Vernon. In the Wesco South, Edmonds-Woodway is at Mariner, Mountlake Terrace is at Kamiak and Meadowdale is at Shorewood. All the varsity meets start at 7 p.m.

Cascade athletic director Doug Kloke called the schedule shift a positive one. However, he said the Friday spotlight might have eluded the sport before because many wrestlers also compete in weekend tournaments. The physical strain of wrestling – and making weight – on back-to-back days can be grueling. Seven Wesco teams are scheduled to compete in tournaments on Saturday.

Hammond returns to Terrace: Junior forward Justynn Hammond has returned to the Mountlake Terrace boys basketball team. Hammond, a 6-foot-6 slasher who scored 11.5 points per game for the Hawks during his sophomore season, moved to California this summer but returned to Washington around Thanksgiving after his living situation soured. He is the cousin of Hawks teammate Luke Hammond and half-brother of teammate Christiaan Hammond.

Justynn Hammond was reinstated by District 1 officials and is living with a guardian in Brier, according to Mountlake Terrace coach Nalin Sood. After completing the required number of practices, Hammond has scored 27 points in three games, including eight last Friday in a 40-33 road victory over Everett.

“We’re very happy to have him,” Sood said. “He deserves to be eligible this year. We can’t punish a kid because he has a tough living situation.”

Hammond ran a timed mile his first day back with the team, like the rest of the Hawks had to at the beginning of the season. He is fitting in so well it’s almost like he never left, Sood said.

“We welcome him back,” he said. “He’s a wonderful young man and he’s a good basketball player. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

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