By Ian Ferguson
The Blaine boys basketball team has seven seniors returning to play this year, making it the most stacked team in terms of experience since head coach Shaun Pile took over in 2011. Meanwhile, following the graduation of three of the strongest players to come through Blaine in recent memory, the girls team is looking to rebuild with a relatively young and inexperienced squad.
The teams have been practicing for two weeks, and will begin the season on Tuesday, December 1, with the boys at home against Nooksack Valley and the girls at Nooksack Valley. Both games begin at 7:15 p.m.
For the boys team, Shaq Woods, Kier Munzanreder and Carson Knutzen are three of the high-powered seniors who will make headlines this year. Woods is a 6’4″, 325-pound center who has the coordination, awareness and soft touch on his jump shot to match his imposing presence at center. Munzanreder is strong and fast, and can break down defenders at the power/small forward position. Knutzen has a solid mid-range jump shot and the ability to make plays.
In addition to seven seniors, most of whom have extensive varsity experience, the boys team has depth in talented younger players as well. Anthony Ball, Jalen Kortlever and Jon Starcer are a few players who will add varsity experience to the mix. Incoming freshman Ben Adam is showing promise as a ball handler who can read the court and distribute.
“We’re starting out a lot further ahead than we have in years past,” Pile said. “It’s the most experienced, balanced team we’ve had in awhile.”
The girls team, by contrast, needs to replace most of the starters from last year’s team. Of the 12 girls who traveled to the state tournament last year, only five have returned. Five seniors graduated, including standouts Taylor V’Dovec, Mandy Hayes, Brianna Chau and Mikayla Deming.
Sophomore Josie Deming is expected to be a big producer on offense this year. Seniors Makayah Veliz and Kjirstin Larsen will add to the mix.
“It’s been a challenge with a smaller team this year, but it’s also been a lot of fun,” said head coach Ryan Pike. “At this stage, we’re young so we have to really break it down to the basics in practice to build a solid foundation. We’re working on trying to get balanced scoring from the whole team this year.”
Last year, the girls team went 9–11 in the regular season, took third place in the 2A district tournament and lost to White River in the elimination round of the state tournament. The boys team went 5–15.