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Nezi Keiper (in white, with ball) and the CMS 8th grade hoops squad went 9-0 this season. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The final performance? Impeccable.

Fighting through rampant illness, then enduring a bus trip to the wilds of Granite Falls Tuesday, the Coupeville Middle School girls basketball teams closed their seasons with a bang.

Two wins, one of which capped an undefeated season for a Wolf squad, and a narrow loss in the third game, was the order of the day.

How it played out:

 

8th grade varsity:

Granite came out swinging (literally), but was no match for the Wolves, who cruised home with a 44-26 win to seal the deal on a flawless 9-0 season.

As the game progressed, at least three Coupeville stars were left seeing … stars, as Alita Blouin took an elbow to the eye, Maddie Georges had her nose rearranged, and Gwen Gustafson was body-slammed to the floor.

That last melee drew a technical foul on the hosts, but all the bangs and bruises in the world were no match for the high-flying Wolves.

Blouin, living up to her nickname of “The Assassin,” rained down unholy pain on Granite, torching the joint for a season-high 15 points.

The slash-and-destroy guard scored in every quarter, tossing in five field goals, ruffling the nets for a pair of free-throws, then stabbing Granite through the heart with a three-ball.

Coupeville is far from a one-woman team, however, with its top four scorers finishing within nine points of each other this season.

Tuesday, while Blouin was slashing to the hoop and popping from outside, Coupeville’s dominant post players, Carolyn Lhamon and Nezi Keiper, were the perfect complement, throwing down 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Up 10-7 at the first break, with four players already in the scoring column, the Wolves steadily built the lead from there.

With coach Alex Evans pulling all the right strings, and every player on the floor attacking relentlessly, CMS surged to a 23-12 lead at the half, before shoving the margin out to 35-19 heading into the fourth.

Seven of the 10 players to see action scored, led by the trio in double figures.

Georges, Gustafson, Ryanne Knoblich, and Jill Prince rounded out the attack, with a bucket apiece, while Hayley Fielder, Jordyn Rogers, and Jessenia Camarena also saw floor time.

 

7th grade varsity:

The only loss of the day, but a nail-biter until the end.

“We were always just right there; just needed one more minute!,” said CMS coach Megan Smith. “But proud of the way the girls played.”

The 24-19 loss drops Coupeville’s final record to 2-8, but that’s a bit deceptive.

Smith’s top two scoring threats, Brionna Blouin and Lauren Marrs, only played together six times during the 10-game schedule, as illness had other plans for the Wolf duo.

Tuesday was one of those six games, and they proved how potent they can be when they get a chance to work together.

Marrs went off for a game-high 13, scoring in every quarter and netting a three-ball, while Blouin returned from sick leave to bank in six points in support.

The game was knotted 8-8 after the first quarter, with Marrs having already scored in every possible way, hitting a trey, a field goal, and a free-throw.

The offense slowed down a bit in the second quarter, with Granite holding a 6-2 advantage, and that would prove to be a killer for the Wolves.

The two teams battled almost evenly across the final 14 minutes of the season, but the Tigers stretched the lead ever so slightly with a 6-5 third frame, before the teams closed with a 4-4 stalemate in the final quarter.

Smith got quality floor time for every one in uniform, with Jackie Contreras, Reese Wilkinson, Allison Nastali, Erica McGrath, Kaitlyn Leavell, Desi Ramirez, Skylar Parker, and Kayla Arnold chipping in with defense and hustle.

 

8th grade JV:

Someone check what Jessenia Camarena had for breakfast, because she was unstoppable.

Pouring in a season-high nine points in just two quarters, the defensive dynamo transformed into an offensive whirlwind, pacing Coupeville to an 11-8 win.

The victory, which comes after the  JV had to sit out back-to-back games, thanks to other schools battling their own spring cold and flu season, lifts the Wolves final record to 3-5.

While she got a bit of help from Claire Mayne, who slipped through the Granite defense for a first-quarter bucket, this was Camarena’s game, from start to finish.

She tossed in two buckets to go with Mayne’s basket, as CMS built a 6-2 lead after one quarter of action.

Not content to stop there, Camarena knocked down another field goal, and a three-ball, to account for all of Coupeville’s scoring in the second, and final, frame.

Setting her up for the offensive explosion were her teammates, who harassed the Granite ball-handlers and hit the boards with intensity.

Karyme Castro, Abigail Ramirez, Mercedes Kalwies-Anderson, Adrian Burrows, Prince, Rogers, McGrath, and Contreras rounded out the active roster.

 

Final scoring totals for the 2019 season:

 

8th varsity:

Carolyn Lhamon – 71
Alita Blouin – 65
Nezi Keiper – 63
Maddie Georges – 62
Gwen Gustafson – 25
Ryanne Knoblich – 16
Hayley Fiedler – 10
Jill Prince – 6
Trinity McGee – 2
Jordyn Rogers – 2

 

7th varsity:

Brionna Blouin – 74
Lauren Marrs – 62
Desi Ramirez – 17
Reese Wilkinson – 8
Erica McGrath – 6
Kayla Arnold – 2
Ava Mitten – 2
Allison Nastali – 2
Skylar Parker – 2

 

8th JV:

Jessenia Camarena – 17
Trinity McGee – 11
Claire Mayne – 10
Mercedes Kalwies-Anderson – 9
Adrian Burrows – 8
Cristina McGrath – 8
Ryanne Knoblich – 6
Karyme Castro – 4
Melanie Navarro – 4
Jill Prince – 3
Jordyn Rogers – 3

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Gwen Gustafson and the CMS 8th grade hoops squad are a pristine 7-0 on the season. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

One team is chasing experience, the other perfection.

The two Coupeville Middle School girls basketball squads to see action Tuesday at home against Lakewood found different results, but both continue to build towards a bright future.

How the action played out:

 

8th grade varsity rolls towards nirvana:

Two games away from perfection.

Dodging the rampant illness running through Coupeville, at least for the moment, the Wolves crushed Lakewood 38-21 to improve to a flawless 7-0 on the season.

CMS coach Alex Evans and his band of fiery attack dogs have two games remaining, both against teams they have already beaten.

First up is the home finale Thursday, with Sultan on the menu, than a road trip Mar. 19 to Granite Falls.

Facing off with Lakewood, a much-larger school which feeds players to a 2A high school, the Wolves methodically bushwhacked their foes.

A 10-7 lead after one blossomed into a 19-10 margin at the half, then a 30-16 bulge headed into the fourth quarter.

Alita Blouin, the quick-silver killer known as “The Assassin,” led the way, hitting for a game-high 11 points on a variety of shots, including a big three-ball in the third frame.

She was backed up by Nezi Keiper, who rattled the rim for nine points, and the inside-outside combo of Carolyn Lhamon and Maddie Georges, who hit for six apiece.

Hayley Fielder (4) and Gwen Gustafson (2) rounded out the well-balanced attack, while Jill Prince, Jordyn Rogers, and Ryanne Knoblich all chipped in with defense, hustle and all-around scrappiness.

 

7th grade varsity goes down swinging:

Coupeville was missing leading scorer Brionna Blouin and defensive dynamo Allison Nastali, thanks to illness, and the Wolves fell 37-13 to their big-school rivals.

The loss drops the Wolves to 2-6 on the season.

Lakewood put the hammer down hard in the early going, sprinting out to a 14-2 lead after one quarter, then steadily increased the lead as the game went.

Coupeville ended the afternoon on a positive note, however, taking the fourth-quarter battle 4-2, with Erica McGrath and Desi Ramirez singing the nets for a bucket apiece.

Ramirez, who entered the game with nine points on the season, went off for a team-high six, while Lauren Marrs hit for three.

Joining that duo, and McGrath, plucky Ava Mitten, niece of former CHS hoops hotshot Jason McFadyen, drained the first basket of her middle school hardwood career.

Skylar Parker, Reese Wilkinson, Kayla Arnold, Kaitlyn Leavell, and Jackie Contreras also saw floor time for Megan Smith’s ever-improving team.

 

8th grade JV sits out:

Lakewood is getting hit as bad as Coupeville is when it comes to cold and flu season, and the visitors weren’t able to field a JV team this time around.

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Maddie Georges returns for another season of middle school basketball. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The benches will be full.

The rosters for Coupeville Middle School girls basketball go 30 deep, with 19 eighth-graders and 11 seven-graders set to kick off a new season Tuesday, Feb. 5 at home against South Whidbey.

The Wolves will be coached by Alex Evans (moving up to 8th from 7th) and Megan Smith (returning to run 7th after a season away).

Rosters as of today:

 

8th:

Alita Blouin
Adrian Burrows
Jessenia Camarena
Karyme Castro
Hayley Fielder
Maddie Georges
Gwen Gustafson
Mercedes Kalwies-Anderson
Nezi Keiper
Ryanne Knoblich
Carolyn Lhamon
Claire Mayne
Trinity McGee
Cristina McGrath
Melanie Navarro
Jill Prince
Abigail Ramirez
Jordyn Rogers
Jessica Ross-McMahon

 

7th:

Kayla Arnold
Brionna Blouin
Jackie Contreras
Kaitlyn Leavell
Lauren Marrs
Erica McGrath
Ava Mitten
Allison Nastali
Skylar Parker
Desi Ramirez-Vasquez
Reese Wilkinson

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What do I want to see in 2019? I want to see every Coupeville athlete show the heart Alita Blouin does. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

How best to end 2018? With a story.

It’s one small moment from a year, but it says so much, without a word being spoken aloud.

To set the scene, I will say this — in the world of high school and middle school sports, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, matters as much as heart.

I’m not naive. Talent is huge. Top-level facilities, inspiring coaches, access to quality equipment, all obviously have a major impact.

Camped here in the middle of a rock, which sits in the water, quite a distance from the opportunities enjoyed by big city schools, or Richie Rich private schools, or the combination of both, provides a major hurdle for Coupeville teams and athletes.

It is what it is.

You can complain all day, or you can get working.

And that is where heart comes in.

The best athletes I have witnessed come through Cow Town, the most-successful teams, all have something in common – they do not quit, they do not stop working, and they believe, down deep in their soul, that there is absolutely, positively NO REASON they can’t be the best.

Marlene Grasser to Makana Stone, Bill Riley to Hunter Smith, heart, above all else.

And this is where we come to my year-capping story.

Over the past couple of years, I have been very impressed with the Wolf female athletes who are currently in 8th grade at Coupeville Middle School.

There is talent, desire, and heart to be found in their male counterparts, but this group, which has come up playing together, is something different.

From Maddie Georges to Gwen Gustafson to Hayley Fiedler and beyond, they have an air about them very similar to what the Coupeville High School girls of the late ’90s and early 2000’s had.

That time period is the most successful in CHS female athletic history, and I believe this current crop, especially mixed with the class or two right above and below them, is primed to make their own history.

And one moment, a small, but significant moment during warm-ups, not even in a game, has sealed the deal for me.

Of all the CMS female athletes, Alita “The Assassin” Blouin is the one, who, for me, towers above the field.

She’s not very tall, maybe, but she is quick and, this is where it gets good, every time I have seen her play volleyball or basketball, she carries herself with the look of a young woman who fully intends to beat you, and beat you badly.

Off the court, all smiles, as friendly as anyone, but on the court, she looks like she wants to rip her opponent’s knees off and feed them through a wood chipper.

To which I say, YES.

It’s about dang time a Coupeville athlete didn’t back down at the sight of a fancy uniform, time they expected to win, and win because they had put in the hard work to get there.

Which brings us to our moment.

As CMS went through warm-ups before a volleyball match this season, the 8th grade team started to run laps around the floor.

Blouin, a team captain, was out in front, serious and locked-in. No coasting for her.

At which point, one of her teammates, Lucy Tenore, who is considerably taller than Blouin and has a much-longer stride, started to try and pass her friend.

Blouin would not let it happen.

Tenore, smile growing bigger and bigger, tried a second time, then a third, while Blouin refused to give in.

Legs pumping, elbows at alert, Blouin fended off Tenore at every turn, using three steps to cover the ground Tenore covered in one, all the while with her face locked in a death mask of concentration.

Tenore, fully laughing at this point, finally relented, only to see Blouin kick it up a notch to a sprinter’s run to finish the final curve, one eye looking over her shoulder just in case anyone else wanted to get foolish.

During the match, the duo dazzled, with Blouin popping perfect set-ups for Tenore to reach up and smash. With each winner, they hugged, smacked hands and smiled.

After the match, the two hung out together in the stands, half-sprawled across each other as only teen girls can pull off, laughing and talking, the best of friends.

But the statement had been made — no one, no where, no how, is going to get past Alita Blouin, a relatively small girl with a heart the size of the universe.

I doubt very many people noticed the moment. And if they did, they might not have thought anything of it at the time.

But in that moment, everything I hope to see as a grizzled sports writer, was on display.

As we head into 2019, what do I want for Coupeville sports?

I want every single Wolf athlete, high school and middle school, to attack the day like Alita Blouin does.

Do that, and there’s greatness ahead.

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Gwen Gustafson and Co. will soon be back for another season of wheelin’, dealin’ and droppin’ buckets. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

You have six weeks to get your affairs in order.

And to figure out where your laminating machine is hidden.

We’re in the thick of high school basketball right now, but Coupeville Middle School girls hoops is on its way.

The first day of practice arrives Jan. 22, and the first game hits Feb. 7 – hence the six-week warning.

The 10-game schedule (ready to be printed out, laminated and attached to your frig):

Thur-Feb. 7 — South Whidbey
Tues-Feb. 12 — @King’s
Thur-Feb. 14 — Sultan
Wed-Feb. 20 — @Granite Falls
Thur-Feb. 21 — Lakewood
Tues-Feb. 26 — @Northshore Christian
Tues-Mar. 5 — @South Whidbey
Thur-Mar. 7 — King’s
Tues-Mar. 12 — @Sultan
Thurs-Mar. 14 — Granite Falls

All home games start at 3:15 PM.

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