A young Jackson girls basketball team is coming together nicely.
In its first game following an extended break of 16 days thanks in part to Mother Nature, the Timberwolves easily dispatched Marysville-Pilchuck 58-44 in a non-conference game Dec. 30 at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.
It took a while for the Wolfpack to get rolling. The Tomahawks outscored Jackson 12-9 in the first period.
“The first quarter you could tell the kids needed to get their legs under them and get into the tempo of the game,” Jackson coach Jeanne Thompson said.
The Timberwolves found their legs and that tempo in the second and especially the third quarter when they outscored Marysville-Pilchuck 14-4, holding the Tomahawks to only one field goal.
Freshman center Kristin Stoffel scored a game-high 19 points, five above her team-leading average. Junior Chanel Sam added 12 points. Jackson welcomed the return of junior guard Erin Feeney, who scored nine points in his first game of the season. Feeney was sidelined by a bout of mononucleosis. Leigh-Ann Haatja also added nine points.
“Erin Feeney, her experience really helped,” Thompson said. “Sam’s defense really helped us. We picked up the intensity in the second quarter.”
In particular, Jackson defensive play by its posts on Marysville-Pilchuck’s Britt Harris was stellar in the second half. Harris scored 14 points in the first two quarters but then was limited to only four points the rest of the game.
“We were able to transition and get some easy baskets,” Thompson said. “That helps a lot for the girls’ confidence, to get that feeling for the second half.”
“Our bench did a nice job,” Thompson added. “Everyone was sound. That helped us pull out the victory.”
A clear standout so far is Stoffel, who is averaging a team-high 14 points per game. Stoffel’s intelligence on the court coupled with her natural talent have enabled Jackson to start the season 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the league.
The Wolfpack defeated Mariner 66-54 Jan. 5 in a Western Conference South Division game at Jackson High School as league play resumed.
“She (Stoffel) does a great job of just being smart,” Thompson said. “She’s skilled. She reads the defense and takes what the defense gives her. She has the ability to knock them down.”
Though Stoffel can hit the mid-range jumper, so far most of her points have been down low.
“She’s been able to drive to the basket or just score straight off the block,” Thompson said.
Thompson admits that Stoffel has caught some teams by surprise. The second half of the regular season will be far different for the freshman center.
“We’ll probably see more double teams,” Thompson said. “Teams will send guards. She’s just going to have to be aware of the defense and be able to kick it out to our guards. She’s smart enough to make those adjustments.”
The Timberwolves, however, are by no means a one-player show. Sam and sophomore point guard Megan McArthur each are averaging nine points a game.
“We knew that Sam would do well,” Thompson said. “(McArthur) is doing a great job leading the team. … She’s doing a great job being our point guard.”
The return of Feeney means that Jackson has many options on offense.
“”We haven’t had to rely on just one player,” Thompson said. “Stoffel has been our go-to gal in the first five games. … We have so many kids we know can hit shots. We’re excited about that.
Thompson also is excited about the overall progress she’s seen from her young team.
“We’ve competed well with the two losses that we’ve had,” she said. “We were right there. Both games would have gone either way. The girls learned a lot. That will help us in close games.”
Jackson dropped a 57-54 game to Edmonds-Woodway and lost to Glacier Peak 44-39.
“We didn’t have a couple of shots that we needed,” Thompson said. “They (Timberwolves) were making the right plays. Once they gain more confidence and more experience, the shots are going to drop. Those plays are going to happen.”
As might be expected, the Timberwolves’ composure also has wavered.
“We’re a young team,” Thompson said. “We get excited. We throw it around more than we need to. Turnovers need to go down.”