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CHS players listen to coach Brad Sherman during a timeout. (Michelle Glass photo)

This is its own thing.

The Coupeville High School varsity boys’ basketball team put together a season for the ages last time around.

Winning league and bi-district crowns en route to their first trip to state since 1988, the Wolves were the last unbeaten 2B team in the land, winners of 16 straight to open the 2021-2022 campaign.

That won’t happen this time around.

Instead, a new-look Coupeville squad starts at 0-1, after falling 62-54 Wednesday at South Whidbey.

The non-conference loss, coming against a strong-shooting Falcon squad which features nine seniors on its roster, doesn’t have to be a crippler, however.

The Wolves don’t start league play until January, and the chance to hone their game against schools from larger classifications, such as 1A South Whidbey, could be invaluable.

If nothing else, Coupeville showed nice resilience, overcoming a poor performance at the free-throw line and the occasional growing pains of a roster in flux to rally several times.

Trailing by as many as 18 points in the second half, the Wolves kicked up their defensive effort and cut the deficit down to single digits more than once.

The rise in intensity was highlighted by the work of Cole White and Chase Anderson, who flustered the Falcons by relentlessly fighting for control of every loose ball and challenging South Whidbey’s ability to push the ball up court.

Anderson, a freshman, hit the court late with the knowledge he had five fouls to burn, and burn most of them he did, thoroughly getting under the skin of his rivals.

As the Falcons grew ever more frustrated with his refusal to step back, The Magic Man never flinched, his eyes burning a hole through their fragile psyches, before calmly strolling away, a whisper of a smile at the corner of his mouth.

The late defensive stand made up for some struggles in the beginning.

Coupeville actually outshot South Whidbey from the three-point line, winning the trey battle 7-6 by the end of the night.

But while that’s a cold, hard fact, every single one of the Falcon three-balls seemed to be a gut-punch.

None hurt worse than a miracle shot which splashed home a half of a tick before the halftime buzzer roared, pushing an eight-point South Whidbey lead to 11 as the teams left the court.

Unless it was the very next Falcon three-ball, which dropped through the net mere moments into the third quarter, sparking a 12-5 run which lifted the hosts to a 44-26 advantage.

South Whidbey led from start to finish, pushing out to an 18-11 lead after one quarter of play, and Coupeville failed to score back-to-back buckets until late in the second quarter.

The Wolves had their moments early, whether it was White popping a short jumper off of a William Davidson rebound and dish, or Ryan Blouin nailing a three-ball for his first varsity points.

But CHS couldn’t put together a sustained run for much of the night, and each time it almost did, South Whidbey stuck a quick dagger in to blunt the rally.

Wolf junior gunner Logan Downes came to life in the second half, rampaging through the paint and arcing moon shots, collecting 17 of his team-high 25 points after halftime.

That included a trio of third quarter three-balls, while running mate Alex Murdy flipped the nets on a pair of late treys.

Coupeville got as close as 58-51 late in the fourth, after Jonathan Valenzuela hauled in a pinpoint pass from Downes and slapped home a layup over a forest of Falcon arms.

But it wasn’t to be, as South Whidbey closed out the game at the charity stripe and was ruthlessly efficient.

Downes was the lone Wolf to hit double digits with his 25 points, while White (9), Murdy (8), Nick Guay (5), Valenzuela (4), and Blouin (3) chipped in.

Zane Oldenstadt, Davidson, and Anderson also saw floor time for Coupeville, which hosts 2A Lakewood Saturday.

Tip time for the varsity boys is 7:00 PM.

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Aiden O’Neill (left) and Malachi Somes helped spark Coupeville JV basketball to an opening night win. (Photo courtesy Ashley Blouin)

The young guns were firing on all cylinders.

Peppering host South Whidbey Wednesday, the Coupeville High School JV boys’ basketball team romped to a 62-46 win in the season opener for both teams.

Under the watchful eye of head coach Hunter Smith, the Wolves roared out to a big lead, before coasting home for the Island rivalry triumph.

With six different players knocking down buckets in the opening frame, CHS surged to an 18-3 lead by the end of the first quarter, driving a stake through the heart of Falcon Nation.

South Whidbey rallied a bit after that, (slightly) cutting the margin to 27-14 at the half, but the Wolves had an answer at every turn.

A 17-16 edge in the third quarter kept the lead at 44-30, before sophomore sensation Hunter Bronec threw down 10 of his game-high 20 points in the final period to seal the deal.

Seven Wolves etched their names in the scorebook, with Chase Anderson banking in 11 points and Hurlee Bronec rippling the nets for 10 more.

Aiden O’Neill (9), Johnny Porter (8), Carson Field (2), and Jack Porter (2) rounded out the offensive attack, while Yohannon Sandles, Mikey Robinett, and Malachi Somes also saw floor time for Coupeville.

The young Wolves get right back at it Saturday when they host Lakewood in another non-conference tilt, with the JV boys tipping at 5:15 PM.

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Carson Grove brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The annual pilgrimage to the wilds of Sultan is off.

For now, at least.

Winter weather encroached on the schedule Tuesday, denying the Coupeville Middle School boys basketball team a chance to bounce across the backroads of the state.

It was snow in Sultan, and not here on Whidbey, which forced the decision.

As to whether the road trip will be rescheduled, Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith was fairly noncomittal.

“We will see…,” he said, then headed off to presumably look for a nice cup of hot chocolate.

CMS has five other games remaining on the schedule, with the season currently set to conclude Dec. 14.

That includes home matchups with King’s (Dec. 1), Sultan (Dec. 12), and Langley (Dec. 14).

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Alex Murdy is a dynamo on both ends of the floor. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Coming off the program’s best campaign in decades, Coupeville High School boys’ basketball wants to keep the good times rolling.

Last season the Wolves, led by a stellar group of seniors, won their first 16 games, captured league and bi-district titles, and advanced to the state tourney.

That had been a long time coming, with the program’s last league title in 2002, when current head coach Brad Sherman was still nailing three-balls as a player.

It had been even longer since the Wolf boys went to state (1988) or won a district crown (1970), but everything clicked during a season in which a different player seemingly carried the team each night.

Gone are those seniors — Logan Martin, Hawthorne Wolfe, Caleb Meyer, Grady Rickner, Xavier Murdy, and Miles Davidson — but the cupboard isn’t bare for Sherman as he enters his sixth season in the lead chair.

Junior Logan Downes was the team’s #3 scorer a year ago, while senior Alex Murdy is a defensive demon who can also torch the net, finishing #4 in buckets on last year’s stacked roster.

They’re joined by five other players with previous varsity experience — seniors Jonathan Valenzuela and Dominic Coffman, and juniors Cole WhiteNick Guay, and Zane Oldenstadt.

All five offer big positives.

Logan is really developing as a complete guard with the ability to score inside and out,” Sherman said. “Had some big games last season and played really well over the summer. He’s going to be tough.

Alex is a force on defense. He gave teams a hard time at the top of our press and pressuring the ball last year,” Sherman added.

“Offensively he handles the ball well and is really strong around the rim – looking for a big senior year from him.”

Cole White, whose dad Greg joins Hunter Smith and Randy Bottorff on the coaching staff, is a co-captain with Downes.

Cole is just a smart player who does a nice job finding the right spots on offense, and he’s a really solid defender for us,” Sherman said.

“He was able to step in and give us big minutes last year and has looked really good stepping into a bigger role over the summer and these first two weeks.”

Cole White sets up the play.

Valenzuela and Coffman were major contributors this fall for a CHS football team which won a league title and advanced to state, and both are expected to bring that same electricity to the floor.

Jon had a great first couple of weeks and is executing a lot of the little things we’ve been emphasizing really well,” Sherman said. “We love the way he’s crashing the boards and getting us second effort shots.

Dom is a football player on the basketball court – and I mean that in the best way possible.  He’s physical, he flies around, and brings a great energy.”

Oldenstadt and Guay were swing players last season, and the duo make the jump to full-time varsity guys this time around.

Joining them will be a trio of JV vets — juniors Ryan Blouin, William Davidson, and Quinten Simpson-Pilgrim — as well as one newcomer in senior Jermiah Copeland.

Freshman Chase Anderson and sophomores Hunter and Hurlee Bronec are also in the mix to swing between JV and varsity, depending on how things play out.

It’s a group Sherman looks forward to working with.

Zane, Nick, and Will are doing a nice job battling in the paint playing our four and five spots right now,” Sherman said. “We are looking for them to be physical and win the rebounding battle every night, play strong around the rim, and get after it on defense.

Ryan worked hard this off-season and gives us another shooting threat on the outside, while Q makes the jump up to varsity because of his defensive presence.

“We are really excited to have Jermiah join us. He’s fitting in well with the team and the system.”

Quinten Simpson-Pilgrim rumbles in the paint.

While players may have changed, team goals have not.

“We want to work really hard with a focus on getting better a day at a time,” Sherman said. “Hit our stride and be playing strong fundamental basketball by the time we hit our league schedule in January.

“Obviously we hope to be right in the mix for a league and district title and be one of those final teams moving on to the state tournament at the end of the season.

“But there’s a lot of work to do between now and then for any team with those goals.”

Coupeville prides itself on its defense, harassing rival ballhandlers and hitting the boards with intensity. That’s a big key going forward.

“Defensively we need to be tough, especially in our ability to pressure the ball, and I certainly think we have that ability,” Sherman said.

“I foresee that being something we do really well,” he added. “The guys returning in our backcourt are going to be a strong group – we could be really tough up top and at our wings, especially in our ability to attack the rim.”

As the new team meshes, the Wolves will focus on winning each small battle, setting them up to triumph in the big wars as well.

“We just want to keep improving on the things we know we need to do well to be successful,” Sherman said.

“Win the rebounding battle every night, execute our defensive system with high energy, get ball reversals and paint touches on offense, communicate on the court, take care of the basketball.

“Excellence is a process, and it requires a mindset of getting better one day at a time. That’s where our focus has to be.”

After some down seasons, the Coupeville gym was crammed with fans last year, a testament to the team’s success, and how the Wolves got there.

“The support from our community was overwhelming last season,” Sherman said. “We hope to keep that same energy in the gym year in and year out through the energy we play with.”

Logan Downes denies you.

Building the culture of the program with an emphasis on “pillars” — grit, gratitude, humility, trust, and excellence — the Wolves look at every foe as a challenge.

Be careful not to overlook any rival teams, but also don’t fear the name on the front of the jersey.

“The team we are playing on any given night isn’t going to change our mindset,” Sherman said. “We need to be prepared to show up and give our best every night regardless of the opponent.

“We just need to be ready every night, work hard, and win our preparation.  If we can do that, hopefully we are in there battling for that league title again this year.”

It’s a team with great promise, ready to write the next chapter in a tale of success.

“We love this group of guys and are excited to see them continue to grow together through the season and keep building that chemistry on the floor,” Sherman said.

“It doesn’t happen overnight – but we had a really good summer through camp, league, and tournament play, and we’ve pushed hard these first two weeks of practice.

“Really looking forward to the season!”

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Coupeville Middle School 6th grader Liam Lawson is here to singe the basketball nets, just like mom Kassie and aunts Kayla and Katie did back in the day. (Photo courtesy Kassie O’Neil)

Use every step to build for the future.

There will be stumbles along the way, but the key is to focus on the positives, while being mentally strong enough to identify and work on correcting the negatives.

That’s the mission for this year’s batch of Coupeville Middle School boys’ basketball players, a collection of hoops stars who don’t have much on-court experience as a group but do have a burning desire to keep on growing.

Some days, like Tuesday’s home opener against visiting Lakewood, are bound to be rough.

The Cougars funnel players to a 2A high school, while the Wolves will be competing two rungs below that — at the 2B level — when they cross the gym hallway and become high school athletes.

That means Lakewood has a lot more bodies at its disposal, and a lot more players with prior hoops experience.

As a group, the Cougars are currently faster, tougher, more tenacious, and more skilled at things like snatching rebounds, running offensive sets, and playing heads-up defense than the still-developing Wolves.

But this is how you learn.

So, while Coupeville lost all three games Tuesday, and by fairly large margins, you hope once the lopsided scores vanish from the scoreboard, they partially fade from memory.

All I’m going to say here is that all three tilts went to a running clock, which happens in middle school basketball when you trail by 30 points,

But otherwise, I’m choosing to redact the final tallies.

Instead of dwelling on the score, we’ll focus on the moments players and coaches should remember.

Like when Wyatt Fitch-Marron went sliding across the floor, face-first, surfing the hardwood as he and a rival player fought for a loose ball.

The young Wolf bounced back to his feet, brushed off any pain from bouncing across the floor, and charged right back into the fray, even as mom and grandma (and a few other fans) gasped and winced.

Or we can stop to appreciate a solid move for a bucket in the day’s opening game from Joshua Stockdale.

Taking the ball down low and rolling through the paint for a layup to (momentarily) halt the Lakewood scoring express, it bodes well for the future.

The same with Cyrus Sparacio drilling the bottom of the net out with a three-ball from the top, then flexing for his fan club, or Riley Lawless swishing a sweet pull-up jumper in the paint while surrounded by defenders.

Young Coupeville players like Liam Lawson and Chayse Van Velkinburgh played with passion, driving the ball again and again into the heart of the storm, even while being smacked by a forest of Lakewood arms.

And shine a light on the Joltin’ Jacobsen brothers, as both Kenneth and Johnathan brought maximum effort to the floor, chasing after rebounds and poking balls away from the Cougar sharpshooters.

From Charles Hart to Hunter Atteberry, from Zach Blitch to Jacobs Meadors and Khanor Jump, the Wolves couldn’t be faulted for their effort, their hustle, and their desire.

The heart is there, and the skill will follow.

Tuesday also saw two more Wolves net their first points of the season, as Nic Laska and Stockdale each banked home a bucket.

That puts 14 Coupeville players in the scoring column two games into an eight-game season.

Games pick back up after the Thanksgiving break, with the Wolves heading to the wilds of Sultan Nov. 29, before hosting King’s Dec. 1.

 

Season scoring stats:

Cyrus Sparacio – 13
Carson Grove – 10
Jayden McManus – 10
Riley Lawless – 6
Chayse Van Velkinburgh – 5
Jacob Barajas – 4
Brantley Campbell – 4
Davin Houston – 3
Sage Arends – 2
Nic Laska – 2
Liam Lawson – 2
Nathan Niewald – 2
Joshua Stockdale – 2
Dylan Robinett – 1

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