Blaine hoops season preview: girls basketball

By Ian Ferguson

Winter means basketball in Borderite land, and both boys and girls teams are off and running in their regular season. Here’s a look at the players to watch and storylines to follow for the girls team.

With graduating seniors, players who have moved and injuries, the Borderites are down several starters from last year’s team, including Taylor V’Dovec, who was last year’s Northwest Conference MVP and is out with a broken toe until January. That doesn’t mean they’re short on firepower, however, with several experienced 2014-11-29-Blaine-at-LC-VGBSK-JSK-30seniors ready to lead the charge.

In addition to V’Dovec, Mandy Hayes, Breanna Chau and Mikayla Deming form a core of extremely talented seniors who have been playing varsity together for four years.

Along with Alexis McElwain, they led Blaine to the state tournament last season, where they fell to Cashmere to finish in fifth place in 1A.

Added to the mix for varsity are senior Barb Pocus, freshman Josie Deming, sophomores Lyric Berry and Kiana Gray, and juniors Kjirstin Larson and Makayah Veliz. Taken individually, each player on varsity has more than enough talent to compete in 2A. It’s figuring out how to play together that poses the biggest challenge for the Borderites this year.

“We’re learning a new dynamic,” head coach Ryan Pike said. “We’re trying to find a fit for every player and figure out who’s going to do what for us. Who’s our go-to clutch scorer? Who’s going to make big stops on defense? Who’s our playmaker? Who’s our emotional leader? We have a lot of great players but our roles are undefined so far. As soon as we find those roles, we’re going to be a dangerous team.”

If a basketball team is to function like a well-oiled machine, each player has to play her part. That can be tough to figure out when each player is multi-talented.

If you look at the best teams in basketball, many of their players are one-dimensional.

There’s the big center who can’t shoot for a darn outside of the key, but who gets every rebound and can post up big. There’s the conservative guard who rarely penetrates but who can thread passes and is deadly from three-point territory. There’s the ball-hog who can always be counted on to drive to the hoop and score or draw a foul. By contrast, Blaine’s team is full of Jills-of-all-trades.

Take Mandy Hayes for example. She’s fast and athletic enough to break down defenders and drive to the basket on her own, but she has good court vision and can distribute well. She can also be a clutch shooter, even from the perimeter. The same can be said for V’Dovec, Chau and Deming.

On their own, each player probably wouldn’t do well, but taken as a whole they form a strong and cohesive team.

Unselfish teamwork has been a hallmark of the Borderites for the last several years, which could explain why players have yet to break out with individual strengths. Assigning roles and sticking to them will no doubt be a challenge for the Borderites this year, but the talent and determination is there.

The team’s leaders will have to step up and help the team find a combination that works. V’Dovec, Hayes and Chau are team captains this year.

“Leadership is uncomfortable for some of them, but they’re adapting,” Pike said.

Once the Borderites find the right recipe, there’s no doubt they’ll also find success in 2A this season. They need to finish with a top-four record against the other seven 2A teams in the Northwest Conference to move on in the post-season.

“I see a good outlook for the season. We have the players; all we have to do is find that dynamic,” Pike said.

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