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Maddie Georges was a beast on offense and defense Tuesday, sparking Coupeville to a home playoff win. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Youth will have its day. Just not today.

Facing off with an Auburn Adventist Academy squad with eight freshmen on its roster, the Coupeville High School girls basketball team bounced the visitors Tuesday, winning 56-37 in its district playoff opener.

The win lifts the Wolves to 9-7 and guarantees they will have two shots to punch their first ticket to state since 2016.

First up is a rumble with La Conner (19-1) Thursday in the CHS gym, with the winner claiming the District 1/2 title.

Tipoff is 5:15 PM.

The loser of that clash travels East, way East, to play Tonasket (15-7) Saturday in a loser-out, winner-to-state game.

Tuesday’s game, the first playoff clash for Megan Smith as a head coach, got off to a great start, hit a momentary pothole, then returned to being covered in awesome sauce.

Harassing their visitors non-stop, the Wolves forced a series of quick turnovers, bolting to a 10-0 lead before the refs could even get their whistles properly wetted.

Maddie Georges buried a three-ball from the left side to kick things off, before Audrianna Shaw and Savina Wells started throwing down points of their own.

Big sis Izzy Wells rejected an Auburn shot, with the ball bouncing right to her sibling, who covered the remainder of the court in several long strides before slapping home a layup.

Coupeville kept the ball moving on offense, with multiple passes on most plays, and finished strongly at the hoop, pushing the lead out to 20-6 by the first break.

Breaking the huddle to start the second quarter, Georges took control, burying a pair of three-balls while also pulling off her copyrighted move of drawing at least one offensive charge per game.

The fiery junior guard once again scrambled to get between the bucket and an incoming player, planted herself, then absorbed a full-body blow without the slightest hint of a flinch.

That sent her big bro (and CHS assistant coach) Alex Evans skyward, pumping both fists as he elevated off his chair, while Maddie offered a small smile of acknowledgement.

The third trey from Georges shoved the lead all the way out to 28-8 and dreams of a rout were in the air.

But then Auburn’s young guns proved to be a resilient bunch.

The Falcons, who had looked flustered all game, finally found a groove and closed the half on a 14-4 run, sparked by two three-balls of their own, plus a three-point play the hard way.

Gwen Gustafson and Shaw hit buckets down the stretch, with Shaw’s jumper moving her past 200 career varsity points, but the feel of the game had changed a bit.

Add in a quick Auburn bank shot to open the third quarter, slicing the lead back down to single digits at 32-24, and there was a slight hint of danger in the air.

Or maybe someone in the stands was eating Flaming Hot Cheetos, because those also smell like danger…

But you know who has no fear? Audrianna Shaw, that’s who.

When she wasn’t smack-talking the refs (with a smile on her face), the senior sparkplug was busy taking Auburn into the back alley and making sure the Falcons never returned.

A Shaw three-ball ripped through the net like a knife, while her razor-sharp dish inside set Nezi Keiper up for a huge bucket in the paint.

Audrianna Shaw, on the rampage.

Coupeville stretched the lead back out to 42-28 by the end of the third frame, before savagely killing all of Auburn’s remaining dreams with 10-0 tear to open the fourth quarter.

The Wolf defense was especially ferocious, with Lyla Stuurmans and Abby Mulholland blocking shots to rile up the CHS student section, while Savina Wells dropped the most-electrifying play of the game late.

Plucking the ball free, the fab frosh roared down court.

Without breaking stride, Wells weaved back and forth between three retreating defenders, spinning them in circles, before sliding through a paper-thin crack at the end, flicking the ball off the glass for a pretty, pretty bucket.

Putting together the kind of balanced attack every coach dreams of, the Wolves had three players in double figures, with eight of 11 scoring.

Shaw knocked down a game-high 13, with Georges (11) and Savina Wells (10) also hitting big.

Gustafson (6), Izzy Wells (6), Carolyn Lhamon (4), Stuurmans (4), and Keiper (2) also scored, with Mulholland, Ja’Kenya Hoskins, and Katie Marti also seeing floor time.

One win from punching a ticket to state.

 

All the tension, half the jersey:

La Conner’s boys survived a wild one on Coupeville’s court, upending Auburn Adventist 48-45 in the nightcap to a playoff doubleheader.

The Braves scored the game’s final four points on free throws, before the Falcons missed badly on a half-court three-ball at the buzzer.

La Conner (7-12) advances to face Coupeville (15-0) Thursday in the district title game, in what will be the third meeting this season between the teams.

The Wolves won the first two clashes 54-26 and 79-45.

Facing off with a quick Auburn squad Tuesday, the Braves led most of the game, only to fall behind by a point with less than 90 seconds to play.

But La Conner responded, with Isaiah Price netting a pair of charity shots to push his team ahead at the 1:15 mark, before Ivory Damien punched home two final daggers with just 2.3 ticks left on the clock.

The Braves defense came up big at the end, with six-foot-nine post player Josh Denton — the man, the mountain, the myth — rejecting Auburn shots on back-to-back plays.

The full-tilt bout also featured a frustrated La Conner player ripping his own jersey into two pieces — while it was still on his body — as he stormed off the court.

Good times for all.

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Bill Jarrell wheels and deals. (Photo courtesy Renae Mulholland)

“Rebound up and in by Mike Ankney!”

The Wolf hoops stars of yore return, thanks to some slick technical work by Coupeville High School grad Renae (Keefe) Mulholland.

She’s digitizing her dad’s radio cassettes, which contain the audio from KBRC play-by-play of CHS games.

First up is a district playoff clash between Coupeville and Orcas Island from 1975, a thriller won 59-52 by the Wolves.

Dennis Wills and Ken Thompson were on the call, while Tom Keefe used his “new realistic Radio Shack cassette deck” to record the broadcast for posterity.

The broadcast even includes the commercials which ran during breaks in the action.

“Pie alone makes it worth the trip” to the Tyee, even back in 1975.

Mulholland plans to “knock a few out each week, if I have time,” making sure the ’70s glory days of Coupeville basketball will be available to Wolf fans young and old.

“Hopefully these 46-year-old cassettes will last a little longer,” she said. “Fun to listen to!”

 

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The CWLL Majors baseball squad can have plenty more celebrations like this, if the Wolves reignite their bats. (Carron Chernobieff photo)

The bats went silent at the worst possible moment.

Unable to muster any kind of sustained offensive attack Monday, the Central Whidbey Little League Majors baseball squad fell 6-0 to arch-rival South Whidbey in the opening game of the District 11 All-Stars tourney.

While the loss drops the Wolves to 10-7 on the season, they’re still alive in the six-team, double-elimination royal rumble.

Central Whidbey returns to Oak Harbor’s Windjammer Park Wednesday to face either Burlington-Edison or Sedro-Woolley in a loser-out game.

First pitch, weather permitting, is set for 6 PM.

If the Wolves want to play further into the tournament, which runs through Sunday, they’ll need to find a way to fire-up their bats, and not repeat Monday’s two-hit, 16-strikeout showing at the plate.

“We are just unable at times to get the bat off our shoulders or get a string of swings to make contact,” said Central coach Jon Roberts. “We saw five really good pitchers today, but we just looked flat.”

There was a point mid-way through the game where it looked like Central Whidbey would never make contact, as its first 11 batters all went down swinging.

That finally changed when catcher Chase Anderson thumped a two-out single down the first-base line in the top of the fourth, breaking up a most discouraging day at the plate for the Wolves.

South Whidbey, while finally dinged, struck right back, gunning down Anderson as he tried to steal second, then whiffing five more batters over the final two innings.

The second Central Whidbey hit came courtesy Camden Glover, and it was a beauty.

Hitting with two outs and no one aboard in the fifth, he cranked a shot to right field for a solid base-knock, then scampered to second on a passed ball while John Rachal was hitting.

Rachal smoked a shot on the next pitch, sending a skipper towards third, but South Whidbey’s defense was air-tight, and that was it for any hint of offense from the Wolves.

While it couldn’t generate any runs, Central Whidbey stayed in the game thanks to strong pitching and a couple of defensive gems.

South Whidbey scored in each of the first four innings, but couldn’t push across more than two runs in any frame.

Keeping things tamped down, the Wolves came up with back-to-back big plays in the field in the bottom of the second.

With two runners aboard and no one out, Central Whidbey thwarted a rally, thanks to Anderson making something out of nothing.

A pitch from Wolf hurler Landon Roberts got loose, but his catcher spun, chased down the ball, then whirled and pegged a near-perfect throw right into Glover’s mitt at third.

Ball kissed leather, the tag was slapped with precision, and what looked like a potential back-breaker of a play turned into a positive moment for Central Whidbey in about two blinks of an eye.

On the next play Jack Porter came crashing in from center field, went to his knees, then made a superb catch on a rapidly-falling ball which had extra bases written all over it.

Those plays, and a well-timed relay later in the game, which broke up a double steal and nailed an incoming runner at home, gave Wolf fans something to cheer about.

That, and effective work from a four-pack of pitchers.

Roberts carried the brunt of the workload, toeing the rubber through the first 2.1 innings, before Porter, Glover, and Anderson combined to share the final 2.2 frames.

All four Wolf pitchers recorded two strikeouts apiece, with Central Whidbey putting together a rare four-strikeout inning in the third.

Roberts and Porter split the K’s, but on the first one, the third strike got away from Anderson and the batter broke for first.

Once again the Wolf catcher made an alert, head-ups play, though this time he wasn’t rewarded.

Snatching up the bouncing ball, Anderson lunged and appeared to have tagged South Whidbey’s slugger from behind. But, after a long discussion, the game’s three umps declined to give him the call.

Now that they’re in the playoffs, the Wolves will likely be out-manned at every step along the way.

While South Whidbey has two teams to combine into one all-star squad, North Whidbey has four, and all the off-Island programs boast large talent pools, Central Whidbey has 11 players, total.

Aiden O’Neill, Johnny Porter, Marcelo Gebhard, Jordan Bradford, Alex Smith, and Jacob Schooley round out the Wolf roster.

Which doesn’t mean Central Whidbey has to go down without a fight. The key will be how big a fight it chooses to generate.

As the Wolves prepare for Wednesday’s game, their coaching staff wants to see a game-long effort which matches the intensity shown on that dropped third-strike play by their catcher.

“That’s what we talked about after the game,” Jon Roberts said. “They have to want this, they have to have that desire to win at all costs.

“They have to be willing to dive for every ball, hustle on every play, make some noise, show some life out there.”

And getting a few hits wouldn’t hurt, either.

 

South Whidbey’s unsung MVP:

While the future Falcons got stellar work from a wide variety of players, we’re honoring Alexander Zarifis, whose dad Steve is the South Whidbey coach.

The plucky younger Zarifis had the friendliest fan club of any rival player, plus he showed a laser-like focus while warming up a teammate in between innings.

Said fan club, led by older sister Caitlin, who appeared in many a production of The Nutcracker with Coupeville dance royalty like Skyy Lippo, did its best hootin’ and hollerin’ as Alexander worked next to the left field fence.

Eyes hidden behind his sun glasses, he was having none of it, however, whipping the ball back and forth, ignoring his family’s efforts to make him blush.

Kid’s a freakin’ Terminator, he is. Just the way his dad/coach probably likes it.

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The Central Whidbey Little League Majors baseball squad kicks off the district tourney in Oak Harbor next week.

Ready to dominate. (Carron Chernobieff photo)

Now it’s baseball’s turn.

With the Central Whidbey Little League Majors softball squad back home after making a run at the state tourney in Poulsbo, their hardball counterparts are set for their playoff debut.

The CWLL Majors baseball squad kicks off the district tournament Monday, June 8 at Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor.

The Wolves, who sit at 10-6 on the season, open the six-team double-elimination brawl against South Whidbey, while Anacortes plays Burlington.

Win Monday and Central faces tourney host North Whidbey June 9, while Sedro-Woolley awaits the survivor of Monday’s other game.

Lose their opener and the Wolves drop into the lower half of the bracket and play their second game June 10.

The tourney runs June 8-14, with games at 6 PM every day until Saturday, June 13, when the first game of the championship series goes at 2 PM.

If the final two teams standing each have one loss after that game, the finale on the 14th is also at 2 PM.

The winner claims the District 11 title banner, and punches a ticket to the state tournament.

 

Central’s roster:

1 – Alex Smith
3 – Aiden O’Neill
4 – Landon Roberts
5 – Chase Anderson
6 – Johnny Porter
7 – Jack Porter
8 – John Rachal
9 – Jordan Bradford
10 – Camden Glover
11 – Marcelo Gebhard
15- Jacob Schooley

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Coupeville frosh Izzy Wells brings the heat Thursday at the district softball tourney in Sedro-Woolley. (Karen Carlson photos)

Scout Smith comes chugging home with one of three fences-clearing home-runs the Wolves smashed as they swept two games and clinched a trip to state.

Third time’s the charm.

After falling a single win shy of advancing to the state tournament two years running, the Coupeville High School softball team flipped the script this time around.

Mashing the ball with a cold, relentless fury Thursday, launching three home runs amid a hail of extra-base hits, the Wolf sluggers swept two games at the district tourney in Sedro-Woolley, clinching their ticket to the big dance.

It’s the third trip to state for Coupeville softball, as the 2019 Wolves join the 2002 and 2014 teams in earning a bid.

After bouncing Meridian 15-0, then holding off a late rally by conference arch-rival Granite Falls in an 11-10 thriller, Coupeville first advances to Saturday’s district championship game.

The Wolves, now 14-7 and carrying a six-game winning streak, play Lynden Christian (11-11) at 2 PM back at Janicki Fields.

That’s a rematch of an early-season non-conference game in which the Lyncs slipped away with a 9-6 win on their home field.

Lynden Christian, the #3 seed from the Northwest Conference, was a bit of a surprise Thursday, drilling Cedar Park Christian 15-3 before toppling NWC #1 Mount Baker 19-17 in the semifinals.

Win or lose Saturday, both Coupeville and Lynden Christian are state-bound May 24-25, heading to Richland to be part of the 16-team 1A field.

The draw for the state tourney is announced this Sunday.

Districts started with nine teams vying for three spots to state, and South Whidbey and Meridian went 0-2 Thursday and crashed out, joining Sultan, which lost a play-in game.

The four teams which finished 1-1 will vie Saturday for the third, and final, state berth from District 1.

Granite Falls faces Cedar Park, and Mount Baker plays Nooksack Valley in loser-out games at noon.

The survivors clash at 2 PM for third-place, while Coupeville and Lynden Christian play for the big trophy on field one, the diamond which the Wolves ruled Thursday afternoon and evening.

How things played out:

 

Game 1:

The first time Coupeville played Meridian, it was a balmy Saturday afternoon on Whidbey Island, and the Wolves romped to an 11-1 mid-season non-league win.

Come playoff time, CHS kicked it into another gear, scoring 11 runs in one inning — with 10 of those coming with two outs — as all nine starters reached base in a game called in the fourth thanks to the mercy rule.

For a game which finished 15-0, it was surprisingly close for a solid 15 minutes.

Neither team scored until the bottom of the second, and Coupeville actually went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first.

To give credit where it’s due, Wolf hitters Scout Smith, Emma Mathusek, and Chelsea Prescott all ripped wicked line drives first time around, only to have Meridian show off some quality glove work.

The first hot shot was snagged in mid-flight by the Trojan shortstop, the next two by a very-startled first baseman.

But with Smith flinging liquid heat from the pitcher’s circle, Meridian could do diddly squat on offense, and Coupeville wouldn’t be held down for long.

The Wolves picked up one run after Sarah Wright bashed a ball off the shortstop’s glove, before moving to third on a ground-out, then strolling home when Veronica Crownover tattooed the ball off the top of the left field wall for an RBI double.

Field #1 had higher fences than the other three diamonds at the play-fields, and the two-bagger would have been a home run on every other field.

Crownover, camped at second, briefly eyeballed the fence, then stashed that info away for later use.

Spoiler alert: the Wolf first-baseman, who leads her squad in taters, hits two home runs later in this story, proving her ability to adjust in-game.

And back to our story as it develops, with walks to Mackenzie Davis and Nicole Laxton setting the table for Smith, who promptly cranked a two-run double to left to give herself, and her pitching arm, a little cushion.

While Smith’s bat made the Meridian coach weep internally, the end of the play, when Laxton pulled off a Pete Rose-worthy head-first slide into third to beat the incoming throw, might have been the prettiest play of the whole dang afternoon.

Back in the pitcher’s circle, Smith gunned down the Trojans 1-2-3 for the second straight inning, part of a run where she retired eight of nine hitters, then erased her one minor mistake (a walk) by inducing a double-play.

Coupeville could have slid by with a run here, a run there, which is what it looked like might happen after Mollie Bailey plated Wright with a sac fly in the bottom of the third.

Up 4-0, with two outs and not a soul aboard, the Wolves were in a decent place.

Then they moved to a really great place.

After Bailey —¬†whose older sister McKayla was the pitching ace for the last Wolf softball team to go to state — bopped back to the bench, a drummer always moving to her own beat, CHS ignited a rally for the ages.

The next 10 Wolf batters reached base safely, starting with a Crownover single, then ending when she came back around to paste the snot out of the ball for a two-run home-run to right-center.

Her fourth ball to clear the fence and fly away to open spaces this season (spoiler: #5 is coming before this story is done), Crownover’s blast followed on the heels of RBI singles from Coral Caveness and Bailey, several Meridian errors, and Prescott gettin’ medieval.

The sophomore shortstop cranked a three-run double that would have been a triple, if she hadn’t hit a hidden hole in the infield as she barreled towards second base.

Prescott, running with a full head of steam, suddenly went down like a sniper in the stands shot out her leg, sending a momentary tremor through Wolf Nation.

But, after five seconds, which felt like an hour, she popped up, bounced around, then perched atop the bag, smiling, and all the pent-up air rushed back out of Coupeville fans in a happy sigh.

Up 14-0 by the time the third inning finally ended, the Wolves needed just a single run in the bottom of the fourth to take advantage of a postseason mercy rule which ends games when one team goes up by 15 any time after the third inning.

Fittingly, it was Smith, who parked a liner to left, sending Laxton home with the final run and earning herself the (sort of) complete-game shutout.

Coupeville rapped out nine hits in the opener, and would get another 12 base-knocks in the night-cap.

Crownover, with two home runs among her four hits, led the way, while Smith, Prescott, Wright, and Caveness piled up three base-knocks apiece across the two games.

Mathusek (2), Bailey (2), and Laxton (1) rounded out the hit parade.

 

Game 2:

While Coupeville had plenty of time to sit around, have a bite to eat, and relax, Granite played all seven innings in its opener, stranding the tying and winning runs on base in a 7-6 thriller against Nooksack Valley.

The Tigers, who beat the Wolves twice this season, only to see CHS bounce back for a win in their third meeting, which was crucial to Coupeville clinching the #1 seed from the North Sound Conference, looked tired when they trekked over to Field #1.

This time it was Wells, the fab frosh, in the pitcher’s circle and she came out poppin’ in a 1-2-3 top of the first.

Granite, with its main hurler having thrown a ton of pitches in the opening game, answered with a backup chucker, causing the Wolves to lick their chops.

Dropping hay-makers from the get-go, Coupeville got a lead-off homer to left from Smith, her second big blast of the season, then an RBI single from Bailey.

Enter Crownover, twirling her bat and giving the stink eye to the Tiger hurler, and exit the ball, with a three-run blast grabbing a one-way ticket over the fence in left-center, staking CHS to a 5-0 lead.

Turns out the Wolves would need every one of those runs, as Granite picked away for two runs in the second, then one more in both the third and fourth.

While the lead shrank to 5-4, things didn’t get truly tragic.

Smart defensive plays, whether it was Mathusek with a diving catch in center, Bailey nonchalantly yanking a red-hot liner out of the air a millisecond before it screamed past her head, or a Laxton-to-Prescott-to-Wright relay to nail a runner at the plate, were huge.

Granite, known for its ability to generate huge offensive outbursts, kept on being muted by Wells and her teammates, and Coupeville never lost the lead.

Ever.

Looking for some breathing room, the Wolves erupted for another five runs in the bottom of the fourth, stretching the margin back out to a more comfortable 10-4.

It started with Caveness, who has been on a hitting tear during the second-half of the season, poking a single into a microscopic gap in left, then really got rolling with base-knocks from Mathusek, Prescott, and Wright.

Prescott’s single was a supremely weird chopper which spun the wrong way, evading the Granite pitcher like they were playing tag at recess.

Wright’s was a wicked pool shot hammered by a back alley hustler taking all your money while making you think you somehow still had a chance to get the cash back.

You don’t, so don’t ask.

From there, the two teams each nabbed a single run, with Prescott delivering an RBI triple while, this time, avoiding the hidden hole at second.

Coupeville couldn’t quite pull away to ten-run Granite, but the Tigers couldn’t get to Wells, or Smith, who came on in relief in the fifth, and it was 11-5 with the Wolves three outs from nirvana.

And then things got sticky.

Maybe nerves finally got to the Wolves a bit, maybe it was the lil’ rain drops which sputtered off and on over the day, maybe it was just a way to make sure the audience didn’t desert Field #1 for any of the other games.

Two crucial Granite hits, and a couple of Coupeville brain fart errors, gave the Tigers a last bit of hope.

In the flicker of an eye, it went from 11-5 to 11-10, and the Wolves were scraping, desperately, to get those final, precious outs.

Caveness, who was superb in the field all day, picked up an out with a sweet snag and flip to Prescott, while Smith erased another hitter on a come-backer.

But Granite had its second-best hitter at the plate, representing the tying run, and its best hitter on-deck, and, for a flicker of a moment, it might have been easy for bad memories to return.

Three years ago, when current seniors Crownover, Laxton, and Wright were freshmen, the Wolves went one and out at districts.

Two years ago, after four playoff games in 22 hours, an exhausted Coupeville team stood a single strike away from eliminating Bellevue Christian and advancing to state … but couldn’t get there.

Last year, the Wolves needed to beat Klahowya, a team they had won six straight against, to punch their ticket.

But it didn’t happen.

Thursday night, at a few minutes past 8 PM Pacific Standard Time, all those memories went away, however.

Smith fired a final pitch and got the ground-out she needed, wanted, and deserved.

Prescott went low, snapped up the ball effortlessly, popped up, took a moment to plant herself, then the orb was headed towards Crownover’s glove, flicked with precision and great velocity.

Time froze, a last raindrop splashed down on the bill of a fan’s ball cap, then Crownover squeezed the ball gently and the universe righted itself.

Sometimes you get the reward for all the hard work, the bruises and scrapes, the late nights on ferries and buses, for never giving up, no matter how many twists and turns come your way in your athletic life.

For Coupeville softball, its steady seniors, its ball-joltin’ juniors, its superb sophomores, its bright-eyed freshmen, and its coaching staff full of diamond lifers, Thursday was one of the biggies.

There’s still much ahead — the district title game, a run at state, and then, down the road, the awards banquet.

But Thursday?

That’s the one they talk about at their 10-year reunion, the one they tell their own daughters about when they hand them a glove for the first time in the backyards of the future.

Thursday will live forever.

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