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Grady Rickner was one of four Wolves who scored in double digits Saturday afternoon. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

What a week.

Three wins in four days, with the latest triumph coming Saturday on Orcas Island, has carried the Coupeville High School varsity boys basketball team into first-place in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

Using a withering defense, and the second 38-point performance this season from junior sharpshooter Hawthorne Wolfe, CHS rolled to a resounding 86-56 win.

Payback for an early-season loss to the Vikings, the victory lifts the Wolves to 6-3 and gives them total control of their own destiny.

While Mount Vernon Christian has the same 6-3 record as Coupeville, the Wolves swept the season series from the Hurricanes, giving them an edge.

CHS also has three games left to play, while MVC only has two, having declined to host Orcas Island this season after that school requested no fans be present during the ongoing pandemic.

Friday Harbor, which comes to Whidbey Tuesday, June 8, and Orcas, whose season ended prematurely and in flames Saturday, sit at 5-3, with La Conner at 4-4.

Darrington (2-3) and Concrete (0-9) — which are Coupeville’s final two foes — round out the league standings.

Coupeville entered this week with a .500 record, but that was very deceptive.

The Wolves were essentially two plays from being 5-1 and not 3-3, with their only solid loss coming when Orcas went bonkers from behind the three-point line for one quarter.

Saturday, CHS coach Brad Sherman preached defense, defense, and more defense, and his players took it to heart, shutting down the Vikings snipers and never allowing them to find a rhythm.

“Great team basketball today,” Sherman said. “Proud of how our guys are coming together – especially on the defensive end.

“They worked their tails off this week!”

By contrast, Wolfe and his running mates were feeling it, and then some, combining to rain down 12 three-balls.

Eight of those came from the high-flying, jitterbugging Hawk, who was in full-on Pistol Pete Maravich mode, while Xavier Murdy netted two, and Logan Martin and Daniel Olson also flipped the nets from distance.

For that matter, everything was dropping for Coupeville.

Inside, outside, from the parking lot. Didn’t matter.

As long as it wasn’t a free throw, as the Wolves only went to the line once — a season-low from a squad which often shoots a lot of charity shots.

But then again, that’s probably because CHS launched most of its shots before the Orcas defense could get set long enough to consider fouling anyone.

Grady Rickner opened the scoring with a pair of quick runners, but the Wolves found themselves in a hole, for the briefest of moments.

Cue the tsunami.

Martin swished an in-close jumper, launching a game-busting 14-0 run which included Wolfe’s first two treys, and the floodgates were open.

Both Murdy boys were on fire, with Alex soaring in for a breakaway layup off a Hawk pass, followed by Xavier pump-faking his defender into the stands before rolling hard to the hoop for a bucket.

Strollin’ and rollin’ to his own unique beat, Wolfe delivered the dagger.

Boppin’ up court, he watched the clock tick down, then spun and made sweet love to the net, nailing a very-long, buzzer-beating three-ball which sent the Coupeville JV players into a screaming fit.

Coupeville kept shooting, kept hitting, and kept harassing the life out of the Vikings while on defense, sending the lead out to 42-29 at the half.

Olson, a senior who has found his niche using his long arms to shut down opponent’s passing lanes, tossed in five points in the second frame, as CHS spread out the offensive love.

Just in case they forgot about him, Wolfe emerged from the locker room with a slight smile on his face and a burning desire to put on a shooting clinic for all gathered.

Rifling four successful shots from behind the arc, with at least two of those from a distance Steph Curry would have approved of, Wolfe outscored Orcas 16-11 in the third quarter.

Add buckets for Martin, Grady Rickner, and both Xavier and Alex Murdy, and the rout was on.

Six players scored in the final quarter as Coupeville stretched the final margin to 30, sending an emphatic message out to what has been a very-competitive league.

Wolfe’s 38 matches his total from the season-opener at MVC, and is just 10 off of the school single-game record of 48, set by Jeff Stone in the pre-three-ball world of 1970.

With the scoring burst, Hawk hit several milestones Saturday, joining the 600-point club, moving from #36 to #30 on the CHS boys career scoring list, and passing one of his coaches as he did so.

Now with 625 points and counting, Wolfe skips past Gabe McMurray (592), Mike Syreen (594), Brian Miller (597), Joe Whitney (601), current CHS assistant coach Greg White (604), and John O’Grady (611).

And he wasn’t the only Coupeville player to crack an exclusive club, as Xavier Murdy tossed in 12, giving him 204 varsity points.

The Wolves had four players in double figures, with Grady Rickner and Alex Murdy each going off for 10, while Olson and Martin netted seven apiece.

Sage Downes sank Coupeville’s remaining bucket, with Logan Downes and TJ Rickner getting floor time for the surging Wolves.

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English basketball coaches were impressed by Makana Stone’s defensive skills. (Photo property Loughborough University)

They respect her game.

Coupeville’s Makana Stone was second in coach voting Tuesday, as England’s Women’s National Basketball League handed out Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Sitota Gines Espinosa of Reading, who led the league in steals, copped the award, finishing with 23 points and five first-place votes.

Stone, who suits up for Loughborough University, pulled in two first-place votes and 14 points.

Esther Little of Ipswich — who has signed to play with Gonzaga — Erica Meyer of Team Solent Kestrels, and Stone’s teammate, Robyn Ainge, round out the top five.

WNBL awards, which started Monday by honoring Loughborough and Thames Valley for best streaming of games, continue through Friday.

The next two days feature the Young (U19) Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and British Team of the Year.

Stone comes back into play Friday, when she is nominated for Player of the Year and Team of the Year.

After graduating from Whitman College, the former Wolf went overseas, playing in a league where schools are allowed one American player.

Playing in 17 of Loughborough’s 19 games, Stone finished with 270 points, 231 rebounds, 33 assists, 58 steals, and eight blocked shots.

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Ryanne Knoblich, pulling down a rebound in an earlier game, was one of six 8th grade varsity players to score Wednesday in a Coupeville win. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The offense was hot. The defense was impeccable. The result was magical.

Shutting down rival Langley in style Wednesday, the Coupeville Middle School 8th grade varsity girls basketball team rolled to a 30-20 win on the road, improving to a flawless 4-0 on the season.

Unlike the first time these Island rivals met, when the Wolves had to storm from behind to net the victory, Wednesday’s match-up was much more of a blowout.

Up 16-9 after the first quarter, Coupeville clamped down and shut-out Langley in both the second and third quarters.

The Cougars missed all six of their free throw attempts across the 14-minute span of play, and every single, stinkin’ field goal attempt they lofted skyward refused to drop.

While Coupeville’s own offense slowed a bit in the middle of the game, it still used mirror-image 6-0 runs in the second and third to stretch the lead out to 28-9.

Langley eked out a measure of redemption in the fourth, using an 11-2 surge to make the final result on the scoreboard seem a bit more palatable.

But just a bit.

With King’s and Northshore Christian not playing 8th grade basketball this season, Coupeville is scrambling to fill out its schedule, and will face Langley a third time Mar. 5.

The older Wolves still won’t get a full schedule, playing nine games to the 10 that the CMS 7th grade varsity has planned, but the drive for a perfect season continues.

A huge part of the success that Wolf coach Alex Evans and his squad are enjoying comes from his team’s ability to hit you a million different ways.

Nezi Keiper and Carolyn Lhamon worked the paint like pros Wednesday, both tossing in a game-high eight points, while Wolf guards Maddie Georges (6) and Alita Blouin (4) scorched Langley from outside.

On the season, Keiper (32), Lhamon (31), and Georges (30) form a wicked three-pronged scoring attack.

Ryanne Knoblich and Gwen Gustafson each knocked down a bucket Wednesday, while Hayley Fielder and Jill Prince chipped in with defense and hustle.

 

8th grade JV falls:

Claire Mayne netted all of Coupeville’s points, but the Wolves went down 14-4 in a two-quarter game.

The loss snaps a two-game winning streak for the JV, leaving them at 2-3 on the season.

Things stayed fairly close in a 6-2 first quarter, but Langley pulled away for the win with a solid second quarter.

Trinity McGee, Cristina McGrath, Mercedes Kalwies-Anderson, Abigail Ramirez, Jessenia Camarena, Karyme Castro, Adrian Burrows, Melanie Navarro, and Prince also saw floor time.

 

No 7th grade game:

Coupeville’s youngest players had the day off, as Wednesday’s games were added to bolster a depleted 8th grade schedule.

The 7th graders, who sit at 2-3, kick off the second half of the season Mar. 5, when all of Coupeville’s teams return to Langley.

After that comes a road trip to Lakewood (Mar. 6), home games against Lakewood (Mar. 12) and Sultan (Mar. 14), and, finally, a visit to Granite Falls (Mar. 19).

All three CMS squads will play in the final five match-ups.

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   With Genna Wright cleaning the boards with a fury Friday, the Coupeville JV girls crushed Port Townsend. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Put ’em down and put ’em down hard and fast.

That was the goal for the Coupeville High School JV girls basketball squad Friday as it faced off with very-overwhelmed Port Townsend.

Mission accomplished, as the Wolves, behind the hot shooting touch of frosh phenom Mollie Bailey, jumped out to a 13-0 lead, then strolled home for a 28-6 win.

The victory lifts the CHS young guns to 3-4 in Olympic League play, 7-10 on the season, and gives them the most wins of any of the four Wolf hoops teams this winter.

Port Townsend’s JV is very much a work in progress, with many of its players unable to breach the withering Wolf defense.

Nicole Lester slapped home a rebound a few seconds into the game, effectively ending things, though the two teams continued to play so the paying fans would get their money’s worth.

With Bailey dropping home a pair of first-quarter buckets, one on a fall-away jumper, the other on a runner off of a break, Coupeville went to the first break up 11-0.

Tack on another Lester bucket, this one set up by a zinger of a pass from Tia Wurzrainer, and the game looked much like the two previous times the Wolves and RedHawks faced.

But there was a new wrinkle, as the Port Townsend JV, which didn’t score until the fourth quarter in the last meeting, tickled the twines just two minutes or so into the second quarter this time around.

It might not have been much, and was quickly answered by a soft jumper from Wurzrainer, a three-ball off the fingertips of Bailey and a stop ‘n pop jumper from Ashlie Shank, but it was still a nice moment for the still-growing RedHawks.

Up 22-4 at the break, Coupeville decided to give fans a chance to head to the snack bar or bathroom in the third.

In a rarity I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed at the high school level before, the squads combined to rim out 247 shots (give or take one or two) and score a combined ZERO points in the third.

Then it was back to Bailey knocking down jumpers and calmly cruising back down court, small smile slightly acknowledging the screams of her rabid fan base, and we were done.

The freshman sharpshooter finished with 11 points, while Wurzrainer, Lester and Genna Wright each tallied four.

Maddy Hilkey (3) and Shank (2) also scored, while Kylie Chernikoff was a one-woman wrecking crew on the boards, and Spanish sensation Julia García Oñoro came dangerously close to scoring her first American points.

Drawing an explosion of cheers from her teammates, García Oñoro pulled down a rebound and, maybe for the first time since she hit these shores, immediately shot right back up and tried to knock down the shot.

While her bucket wouldn’t drop, the foreign exchange student was battered around the head by a pair of RedHawk rivals and earned two free throws.

Trying to stay composed as varsity star Sarah Wright hollered her name, García Oñoro had both charity shots pop back up and out, as the basketball gods refused to play fair.

Still, her shy smile as she was mobbed by teammates and congratulated by CHS coach Amy King afterwards, was worth far more than two points.

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   Ethan Spark scored a game-high 21 Friday, netting five three-point bombs in a Wolf win. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

“They want it pretty bad.”

As he basked in the glow of his first win as a varsity basketball coach Friday, Brad Sherman wanted to make one thing clear — in his eyes, all the credit goes to his players.

Having inherited a senior-heavy roster, the former Coupeville High School hoops star has unleashed the current Wolves on defense, and it’s paying immediate dividends.

Harassing visiting Mount Vernon Christian every inch of the floor, CHS turned a close game into a rout in the second half, then coasted home with a 49-37 win.

The non-conference victory evens Coupeville’s record at 1-1.

The Wolves got strong offensive work from Ethan Spark and Hunter Smith, who combined to score 41 of their team’s 49 points, but it was defense which turned the tide in this one.

The kind of defense where it looked like five rabid dogs attacking as one, poking passes, rejecting shots, forcing turnovers and mental errors and being a royal pain in the tush to anyone unlucky enough to be wearing a Hurricanes uniform.

“I really liked our intensity on defense,” Sherman said. “We were flying all over the place, applying ball pressure and closing down the passing lanes, just making it very hard for the other team to run any kind of offense.”

Coupeville’s starting five – Smith, Spark, Cameron Toomey-Stout, Joey Lippo and Hunter Downes – are all seniors, and have yet to see a Wolf boys hoops squad post a winning record during their tenure.

Friday night, those recent struggles seemed far away, though, as the Wolves fed off a boisterous crowd, and vice versa.

There were times, with the joint rocking, where the excitement level hit the kind of highs it did back when Sherman and his classmates were soaring to success in the early 2000’s.

Whether it was Lippo rising up to reject a shot, Downes swinging his elbows while rebounding, begging any fool to get too close, or Spark making off with steals, the Wolves were in shut-down mode.

And that was most evident when Smith and Toomey-Stout, All-Conference defensive backs on the football fields, continually broke up passes in mid-sprint.

Even when they didn’t get an outright steal, balls were repeatedly jarred free and MVC, which had a distinct height advantage, got more and more gun shy and frustrated.

Adding to their intensity on defense, the Wolves chose the right moment to showcase their offensive attack, closing each of the first three quarters with a substantial run.

The first came after Coupeville fell behind 6-1 midway through the first quarter.

Mixing four free throws — two each from Smith and Spark — and a pair of buckets, Coupeville closed the period on an 8-2 tear, grabbing its first lead with less than a tick on the clock.

The go-ahead bucket came courtesy Lippo, who ripped a rebound free from a Hurricane, spun and rose up to swish a sweet fall-away jumper that tickled the twine with 0:00.3 to play.

The two teams traded baskets to kick off the second quarter, with MVC taking its final lead of the night at 16-14.

After that, the final three minutes of the half were a thing of beauty (if you were a CHS fan, at least).

Smith hung in the air for an impossible amount of time before hitting a jumper on his way down, before Spark … um … lit the spark with the first of what would be five three-point bombs.

Just to make sure MVC knew the jig was up, Smith rattled home his own three-ball, and, as it splatted through the net, he became only the 42nd male Wolf player (in 101 years) to reach 500 career points.

But, wait, there’s more!

Dribbling out the final seconds of the half, Smith sucked in all five defenders, who were dead certain he was driving to the hoop.

Instead, he whistled a pass right onto the fingertips of junior Dane Lucero, who banged home the quarter-capping layup for his first-ever varsity points.

If MVC went into the locker room still holding out hope, with the margin just 24-18, that vanished, hard, in the third.

Spark, who earned praise from his coach for his off-season dedication to working on his shooting, went ballistic, raining down three consecutive treys, each shot getting deeper and deeper into the darkest corner of the court.

As each ball hit, flipping the net skyward with a happy little sigh, the crowd, which has been somewhat dormant at times in recent years, went progressively more berserk.

The loudest scream might have come for two boom-boom plays to cap the third.

Downes and Smith, who combined for many a touchdown as quarterback and receiver, connected again, with Downes yanking a ball free, then lofting it three-quarters of the court.

His target caught it in perfect stride, flipped it up for a layup … then promptly stole the in-bounds pass and scored again.

With everything clicking, Coupeville stretched the lead out to as many as 18 points twice, the final one coming at 47-29 when sophomore Jacobi Pacquette-Pilgrim netted a free throw for his first varsity point.

While an 8-2 MVC run to close the game tightened the score just a bit, the Hurricanes left the court heads bowed, looking very much like a team which just got bushwhacked.

For Coupeville’s players, and its fans, the early-season win set off a celebration, and, for Sherman, a never-ending string of congratulatory handshakes.

Spark finished with 21 to pace the Wolves, while Smith popped for 20.

With 509 career points, he passed Jason Bagby (499) and David Lortz (502) Friday to move into 41st on the all-time CHS boys hoops scoring list.

Downes chipped in with three, Lippo and Lucero knocked down buckets and Pacquette-Pilgrim’s free throw capped the scoring.

While Coupeville’s seniors led the attack, sophomores Jered Brown and Gavin Knoblich also saw valuable floor time.

The Wolves now get a week to rest up, not returning to action until Friday, Dec. 8, when Sequim comes to town.

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