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Audrianna Shaw knocked down an especially impressive bucket Tuesday, but the Coupeville JV couldn’t hold off Granite Falls. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

No excuses, ever.

Despite playing basically four players down Tuesday, the Coupeville High School JV girls basketball team fought visiting Granite Falls from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

But, with two of its top players limited to a single quarter of action, and two more in street clothes, the Wolves suffered a third-quarter let-down and fell 33-20.

The loss, which largely hinged on an 11-2 run by Granite coming out of halftime, drops Coupeville to 3-2 in North Sound Conference play, 6-6 overall.

The Wolves were without the injured Abby Mulholland and Kylie Chernikoff, while starters Izzy Wells and Ja’Kenya Hoskins only made brief cameos so they could remain eligible for extended duty in the varsity game.

That forced CHS coach Amy King to shuffle her roster, and she did, patching together a variety of lineups, while giving Morgan Stevens her first career start.

The high-energy freshman brought a nice intensity to the defensive side of the ball, as did her fellow hustlers like Lily Leedy and Alana Mihill.

Much of Coupeville’s offense came courtesy Anya Leavell, who knocked down eight points with a variety of sweet moves.

She went coast to coast for one bucket, had a pair of baskets on plays where she rolled hard to the hoop, lofting the ball up and over her defender’s fingertips, then capped things with a pull-up jumper.

The game’s best bucket came from Audrianna Shaw, who threw down a wicked mini-hook shot on the move, slicing off a chunk of the backboard before finding pay-dirt.

With the game tied 6-6 after one quarter, Coupeville said farewell to Hoskins. Then, trailing just 18-16 at the half, it was time to bid adieu to Wells.

That gave Granite a chance to bang the ball inside to its big players — one Tiger was six-foot in her socks and camped out all game right beneath the rim — and use a power game to pull away.

The game took a nasty turn in the final moments when Wolf guard Kiara Contreras was launched skyward during a battle for a rebound, before landing hard, smacking her head on the floor.

To their credit, the Tigers, to a player, came over after the game to check on the scrappy CHS ball-hawk, with the Granite player who inadvertently yanked Contreras off her feet offering profuse apologies.

Leavell’s eight points paced the Wolf scoring attack, with Shaw (4), Mollie Bailey (2), Contreras (2), Wells (2), and Hoskins (2) also scoring.

Kylie Van Velkinburgh played strongly on defense, rising up to reject a Tiger shot while the game was still a one-score affair.

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Ja’Kenya Hoskins, seen last year as an 8th grader, scored her first high school varsity points Tuesday, and they couldn’t have come at a bigger time. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Everyone contributes.

From the senior captains to the freshmen swing players, the Coupeville High School girls varsity basketball squad gets something from all of its players, and it’s paying off.

Tuesday night was a prime example, as the Wolves, playing without two starters for the second straight game, pulled together, showed incredible grit and determination in the fourth quarter, and escaped with another win.

This time, it was a 40-33 victory over visiting Granite Falls, thanks to superb plays from young guns Chelsea Prescott and Ja’Kenya Hoskins and surprisingly good free-throw shooting in the game’s final moments.

The win lifts CHS to 4-2 in North Sound Conference play, 6-7 overall, and solidifies its hold on third-place in the six-team league.

The Wolves trail King’s (6-0) and Cedar Park Christian (5-1), while sitting well ahead of Granite (2-4), Sultan (1-5), and South Whidbey (0-6), who they play Friday at home.

A win in that game, against a team it beat by 35 points the first time around, and Coupeville clinches a playoff spot.

Tuesday night, the Wolves were back on their home court for the first time in nearly a month, but minus two major weapons, senior Lindsey Roberts and junior Hannah Davidson.

Roberts, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, suffered a nasty finger injury early in Coupeville’s last game, while Davidson is recovering from a hurt ankle.

Unable to call on either veteran, CHS coach David King went to his bench and gave junior defensive whiz kid Tia Wurzrainer her first career start, then employed freshman Ja’Kenya Hoskins for her longest varsity stint.

Both players responded in style.

Tia and Ja’Kenya did a really good job and brought a lot of energy,” King said. “We talked about having each player step up and play a little bigger and add a little more to their game.

“It’s not to be put on just one or two players,” he added. “Tonight the players did a little more and shared in picking up what Hannah and Lindsey bring us.”

Coupeville’s support crew stood tallest in the crucible of the fourth quarter, rising to the moment after the Wolves frittered away a 10-point lead.

Granite opened the final frame with an 11-4 surge, using two free throws with a little over four minutes to play to knot things at 31-31.

Having seen a 25-15 advantage vanish into the wind, the Wolves could have broken. Could have fallen apart, and said, well, we tried, and taken the moral victory.

Except they weren’t having it.

Prescott, working hard down in the paint, with three Tigers hanging on her, pummeling her from head to toe, promptly broke her foot off in Granite’s collective posterior.

Finding the smallest crack in the defense, the super sophomore slipped through a tangle of arms, draining a gorgeous spinning shot and effectively winning the game on the spot.

The visitors didn’t go down that easily, of course, netting a free throw to cut the lead back to one, but that was just the cue for Hoskins to hit the shot of the year.

The fab frosh had spent the night being a whirlwind, crashing the boards, poking balls free, forcing bad shots and then getting out on the run.

She had capped the first quarter with a breakaway layup, scoring her first-ever varsity points, but for her second act, Hoskins decided to get downright dramatic.

With CHS clinging to a one-point lead, and likely the fifth shooting option of the five players on the floor, the lil’ sister of former Wolf hoops star Jai’Lysa Hoskins announced her own arrival with a shot which probably caused King’s stomach to lurch a bit.

Everyone in the gym expected the freshman to kick the ball back out, but instead “Ja’Kenya the Tiger Killer” spun and banked a turnaround jumper off the glass.

The ball arced up, King looked like he needed some Pepto-Bismo, and then the ball kissed the backboard and softly plopped through the net, sending the fans into delirium and drawing a smile from her now-relieved coach.

Riding an emotional high, the Wolves closed the game’s final minute like stone-cold killers.

A CHS team which had hit just two of 11 free throws to that point swished five of their final six freebies to ice the win.

Prescott had dead-aim on two charity shots, while Scout Smith tossed in the game’s final three points, each shot caressing the net as the ball slid through the twine.

The strong finish capped a game which took a few wild swings.

Coupeville came out strongly, with Prescott drilling a jumper from the side to open scoring, followed by back-to-back buckets from left-handed assassin Avalon Renninger.

Toss in a three-ball by Ema Smith, the first of her three treys on the night, and Hoskins layup, and CHS exited the first quarter up 11-4.

And then the offense stalled-out for a bit.

Other than a second three-ball from Ema Smith, the Wolves couldn’t buy a bucket for the first seven minutes of the second quarter, and actually fell behind 15-14 at one point.

That narrow deficit would be the one and only time Coupeville was on the wrong side of the score, however, as CHS ended the half with a couple free throws and a lunging lay-in from Prescott off a sizzlin’ in-bounds pass.

The Wolves put the hammer down in the third, opening with a 7-0 run to stretch the lead out to 10, before settling for a 27-20 advantage headed into the fourth.

Ema Smith hit on her final trey, sending the ball through the net with a single second left on the shot clock, while Wurzrainer and Nicole Laxton added big buckets.

Laxton slapped home her basket after getting the ball off of a note-perfect drive ‘n dish from Scout Smith, while Wurzrainer’s jumper bounced around the rim 2,437 times before splashing home.

That set up the fourth quarter, where things veered from scary to serene.

Even as the lead slipped away, the Wolves continued to hit big shots, though, with Scout Smith lofting a rainbow jumper off the sweet spot of the glass, while Prescott yanked a rebound free and powered back up for a key put-back.

With Roberts and her 11 points a night scoring average on the bench in street clothes, Coupeville spread out its offense.

Ema Smith paced the Wolves with 11, while Prescott banged home 10 and Scout Smith rustled the nets for six.

Renninger (4), Hoskins (4), Laxton (3), and Wurzrainer (2) also scored, while Mollie Bailey, Izzy Wells, and Anya Leavell all chipped in with scrappy, ball-hawking defense during their stints on the floor.

Proving guards can clean the boards, Scout Smith hauled in a team-high nine rebounds to go with four assists, while Hoskins snatched seven caroms and Ema Smith collected six.

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Grady Rickner and the Coupeville JV overcame a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit Tuesday, rallying to stun Granite Falls. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Just like Chris Smith drew it up.

Following the example set by their unflappable coach, the Coupeville High School JV boys basketball players pulled off maybe the most stunning comeback of the season Tuesday night.

Down by nine entering the fourth quarter, the Wolves went on a creative 15-0 run over the final eight minutes, storming from behind to shock visiting Granite Falls 45-39.

The magical mystery tour of a win lifts the CHS young guns to 1-2 in North Sound Conference play, 5-5 overall.

And I kind of, sort of, think the Wolves expected to win the whole time.

Even after Granite closed the third quarter with a three-ball that hit like a punch to the gut, capping a 10-3 Tigers tear, the Wolves seemed unbowed.

As they headed to their huddle, where Smith awaited them, a gleam in his eye and a play or two stashed up his sleeve, Coupeville’s young guns had a bounce to their step.

It showed as the Wolves charged back on the floor, taking the ball right at the heart of the Granite defense and drawing foul after foul.

CHS scored 10 of its 15 fourth-quarter points thanks to free throws, with five different players netting at least one freebie.

Crawling back, point after point, while also clamping down on defense and running the Tigers ragged, the Wolves also hit from the field when it mattered most.

Logan Martin sank a pull-up jumper, the ball crawling over a defender’s outstretched fingertips by the bare minimum, to pull Coupeville within 39-38.

That set up the super-charged Tucker Hall to hit heroic heights, as he smashed a Granite shot out of bounds, ripped down a key rebound and sank the free throws which pushed the Wolves over the top.

With the visitors unable to hit the side of a barn, much less get the ball to drop through the rim, Coupeville went for the kill and did it with flair.

Xavier Murdy took a pass down low, sucked the defense in, rose up and flung the ball over the top to a waiting Sage Downes, who knifed every Granite player (and all their relatives) with a game-clinching three-ball.

You know those mummy movies, where all the life gets sucked out of some poor fool’s body and all we’re left with is a dry husk rattling around in the middle of a sandstorm?

Make the body count five, as horrified Granite players crumbled to dust (metaphorically, at least), while Downes strolled back down court, a slight smirk gracing his face.

The big finale capped a game that started as a back-and-forth affair, with Coupeville clinging to an 11-10 lead after one quarter of action.

Things stayed tense through much of the second period, until Granite started to (seemingly) pull away.

A Tiger basket literally a millisecond before the halftime buzzer, coming on a pass airmailed the length of the court, was a particular killer.

Coupeville responded well to whatever its coach was selling in the locker room, however, opening the third on a 5-0 mini-run, capped by a sweet jumper from the side by Grady Rickner.

But then things took a bad turn, after a Granite player scandalized several Wolf fans by hitting a free throw while shooting underhanded, granny style.

Going all Rick Barry on the net, the shame-free Tiger fueled the run which set his team up for a strong finish which never came.

“I swear, if we lose by one…” murmured one CHS fan who couldn’t abide with the thought the much-maligned shooting style might be the final dagger.

Of course, it wasn’t, as you know if you read the first half of the story.

And PS — all those Wolf free throws in the fourth quarter?

Shot with your standard shooting style, which, for the moment at least, stopped the hyperventilating in the stands over the unexpected reemergence of the unappreciated granny shot.

Along with shooting their charity shots strictly with a new school method, the Wolves balanced their scoring attack, with Downes and Murdy rattling the rim for 10 points apiece.

Grady Rickner was right behind the duo, netting nine, while Daniel Olson sank eight, Martin ripped off five, Hall had his two big free throws and Cody Roberts added a solo freebie to round out the scoring.

TJ Rickner was the lone Wolf on the floor not to score, but the fast-rising CHS big man hit the boards with a suitable intensity, wrestling balls free and coming out of almost every scrum a winner.

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Damon Stadler sank a pair of three-balls Tuesday, scoring a team-high eight points for the Wolf C-Team. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Play for today, build for tomorrow.

The Coupeville High School boys basketball C-Team hit a lot of the right notes Tuesday night, something which pleases coach Scott Fox.

The Wolves put together their best shooting performance of the season, and, while they came up short in a 44-29 loss to visiting Granite Falls, the signs of growth and improvement are everywhere.

“Kids responded with a great practice yesterday and it produced our best offensive outburst to date,” Fox said. “We lost, but competed hard and are starting to play together and aggressive.

“Very happy with the effort and performance.”

Damon Stadler and Jaylen Nitta sparked the Wolf offense, netting eight points apiece, with Stadler knocking down a pair of three-balls from great distance.

The duo were backed by Chris Cernick, who worked hard in the paint to notch six, while Jonathan Partida (4), Brayden Coatney (2) and Ben Smith (1) also scored.

Tony Garcia and Andrew Aparicio rounded out the roster, with all eight Wolves in action bringing the heat on both ends of the floor.

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Mason Grove netted nine of his game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday, as Coupeville held off pesky Granite Falls for a 52-43 win. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Hop on the roller-coaster and strap your butt in nice and tight.

Tuesday’s varsity boys basketball showdown between Coupeville and visiting Granite Falls went topsy, then turvy, then nutso, before finally ending just perfect.

It was the kind of night when the Wolves blew out to a 16-point lead in the first quarter, eventually gave their advantage completely away, then closed like cold-blooded killers.

It turned into a 52-43 win, which improves Coupeville’s league standings greatly as we head into the heart of the schedule.

Now 1-2 in North Sound Conference play, 2-8 overall, CHS moves into a fourth-place tie with Cedar Park Christian (1-2, 5-8), a game-and-a-half up on Granite (0-4, 2-11).

That’s big, as five of six teams make the playoffs.

Coupeville is just a game out of second, where Sultan (2-1, 2-8) and South Whidbey (2-1, 8-4) are tied, while King’s (4-0, 9-4) is out in front after crushing South Whidbey 80-54 Tuesday.

The battle royal between the Wolves and Granite started as a blowout, as Coupeville blistered the net in the early going.

Sparked by Gavin Knoblich, a solid role player who suddenly morphed into a can’t-miss shooter, CHS roared out to a 13-1 lead, before stretching it all the way out to 20-4 in the final moments of the first quarter.

The ball was moving, the passes were crisp and purposeful, and one Wolf after another took turns setting up their teammates for easy buckets.

Ulrik Wells opened the game with a soft lil’ jumper, set up by a nice dish from freshman Hawthorne Wolfe, then Wells turned around and popped a perfect pass that Knoblich translated into a layup.

Knoblich came back around to net a three-ball, with Wolfe netting the assist, before Wolfe launched his own trey from well behind the arc.

As all this was happening, Sean Toomey-Stout was bouncing and bounding, snaring rebounds, chasing down errant passes, harassing any Tiger within several hundred feet and being electrifying every time the ball was in his hands.

Taking steals coast to coast, banking left-handed leaners while hovering in mid-air, “The Torpedo” knocked down eight points in the opening frame, one better than Knoblich.

At that point, the Wolves looked like a team on its way to an 80-point night, but then the rim turned unforgiving for a bit.

Granite closed the first quarter with a three-ball of its own, then continued to chip away in the second frame.

Wolfe and Mason Grove sank long treys under great duress, but a 16-point lead was chiseled down to 28-20 by the half.

The successful shots got fewer and farther between in the third, and, despite Wolf big men Wells and Jacobi Pilgrim fighting like beasts in the paint, Coupeville finally saw its lead completely evaporate.

Granite slipped a pair of free throws through the net to claim its first lead of the night at 33-32, and it could easily have been the moment the Wolves cracked and completely fell apart.

But they didn’t.

Grove drilled the bottom of the net out on the very next play, his three-ball lifting CHS back in front, and he and his teammates displayed a calmness, mixed with derring-do.

Even when the Tigers knotted the game at 36 right before the third quarter buzzer, the Wolves never flinched.

And never stopped attacking, which might have been even bigger.

Coupeville rolled out of the timeout between quarters ready to run, and struck quickly, with Wolfe slashing through the defense and flicking a pass to Knoblich, who drained a jumper from the side.

Another three-ball from Grove, paired with a free throw by Wells, and the lead was back to six.

The visitors tried to keep the pressure on, tossing in a trey to pull back within 42-39, but Grove wasn’t having it.

Catching his defender off balance, the CHS junior rimmed out a three-ball, but caught the Granite player leaning and suckered him into picking up the foul.

Awarded three free throws, Grove barely rippled the net, sinking each one with the precision of an assassin slipping a dagger between the rib cage of his foes.

Granite crumbled from that point, unable to hit anything from the field the rest of the way, while Coupeville closed with three stellar buckets.

Wolfe tiptoed through a maze of defenders, flicking home a roller over outstretched arms.

Wells yanked down a rebound, then did a ballerina twirl and knocked down a mini-hook shot.

And the final dagger? It came from Grove, naturally, as he capped a season-best 15-point show by burying yet another three-ball, this time while on the move to his left.

The victory, and the way his players pulled it out, brought a smile to Coupeville coach Brad Sherman’s face afterwards.

“It was a great team win,” he said. “I love how much fire we came out with.

“We knew Granite would make a run at some point, but we didn’t let it go; I’m proud of how much fight they showed,” Sherman added. “They played pretty tough all game, diving on the floor for loose balls, doing what you have to do to win a tight game.”

Coupeville spread its offense among six players, with Toomey-Stout rumbling for 11 to back up Grove’s 15. Knoblich added nine, Wolfe rattled home eight, Wells netted five and Pilgrim banked home four.

Jered Brown and Dane Lucero rounded out a short roster for the Wolves, providing smooth ball-handling and defensive grit, respectively.

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