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Laken Simpson played strongly on both ends of the floor Thursday, including scoring for the first time this season. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

The improvement is real, and it is tangible.

After opening the season at home, the Coupeville Middle School girls basketball teams hit the road for three straight games, finally returning to their own gym Thursday afternoon.

Game #5 was always going to be tough, with King’s Junior High transporting its band of battle-hardened semi-professional hoops stars to Whidbey on a swanky bus which most definitely is not of the yellow variety.

Cushy seats, acres of leg room, probably a personal chef operating the waffle bar in the back as the Knights ramble back to Shoreline.

At least that’s how I assume all swanky private schools roll.

So, safe to say Coupeville’s players, many of whom are in their first season of organized ball — and most assuredly don’t have a waffle bar on their bus — faced a steep challenge as they took the court Thursday afternoon.

To their credit, each and every Wolf girl responded with the kind of roar which warms the heart of old-school hoops fans near and far.

Outside, rain drops plopped on heads, driving tennis players off the courts.

Inside the CMS gym, with preteen girls in the stands screaming at levels not generally heard outside of the front row at a Harry Styles concert, it was a battle royale.

Sure, King’s had superior firepower.

Heck, it had the only player throwing behind-the-back passes — and that was in the JV game, for goodness sake!

But Coupeville’s rooting section, super-charged by way too many middle school kids eating way too much candy and chips, matched King’s note for note in trying to bust the eardrums of anyone over the age of 15.

There is loud, and then there was what Thursday was, and that kind of energy and enthusiasm, centered around the one perfect sport we have in this world, is truly admirable.

Give King’s props. And give Coupeville’s girls even bigger ones.

Cause out there on the floor the Wolves held up well under pressure, facing the best teams they will play this season.

It started in the JV game, with Chelsi Stevens unleashing her full fury on the defensive end of the floor.

Snatching rebounds, knocking balls loose, staring daggers at any rival who dared to enter her personal space, she was a wonder to behold.

That fire on defense carried over to her teammates, with Adeline Maynes and Ava Carpenter pestering the crud out of King’s ballhandlers.

Off the court, the duo seem like really nice young women, bright and personable. On the court, they seem like they might knife a girl.

Which is EXACTLY what I want to see!

Maynes and Carpenter are not dirty, they’re not excessively rough, but they will get down and rumble, which bodes well for their hoops future.

They remind of me another brilliant, exceptionally kind young woman — former CHS four-sport star Breeanna Messner — who constantly shocked hoops opponents with her spine of steel.

Hit her in the eye (for real), and she’d slice you off at the kneecaps (metaphorically, most times…) — nailing a three-ball, then backpedaling without ever breaking eye contact with her on-court abuser.

Yes, that would be the same Breezy who was back in town for a bit and manning the scorebook on this day, all of her positive vibes and killer instinct flowing through her pencil out to a new generation.

Carpenter, in particular, had some Breeanna Messner in her hustle, as she was a freakin’ Tasmanian Devil on the hardwood.

Diving to the floor to wrestle for loose balls, while dropping “The Peoples Elbow” (pro wrestling reference — Wikipedia it), she made even the ref take a step back and say, “Whoa now!”

While smiling at Carpenter’s intensity.

Willow Leedy-Bonifas, Laken Simpson, Rosie Lay, Melanie Wolfe, and Elyse White rounded out the JV roster, each one earning respect with their growth, hustle, and commitment.

Unleash pandemonium, today and tomorrow.

Coupeville’s varsity has more experience than its JV, but their level of playing time still pales in comparison to King’s, which rolled out a roster of players with high basketball IQ’s and multiple ways of attacking the defense.

Not that the Wolves backed down in the slightest, a fact made crystal clear by Haylee Armstrong running down breakaways from behind several times, knocking balls loose and preventing easy layups.

Kierra Thayer was strong on the boards while playing against a team devoted to the rebounding arts, never an easy task.

Toss in Tenley Stuurmans showcasing why she’d be a great back alley rumbler, and Liza Zustiak proving very willing to drop a shoulder, and very unwilling to surrender the ball to her rivals, and you love to see it.

Armstrong netted an impressive pullup jumper, while Thayer slashed the King’s D in half on one play where she rolled hard to the hoop, daring any defender to stop her.

Spoiler: They couldn’t.

Just to keep King’s honest, Stuurmans tiptoed down the baseline several times, stoppin’ and poppin’ a couple of in-close jumpers which made the nets bounce.

And through it all, every Wolf to see the floor — from Capri Anter to Brynn Parker, Ava Lucero, Rhylin Price, Lexis Drake, Avery Williams-Buchanan, Marin Winger, and Valeria de Jesus Merino — stayed upbeat and fiery.

Which is a winning combo.

The positive flow carried over to Inara Maund, who was sidelined for this game, but devoted considerable energy to making sure all of her teammates looked their best as she recorded the game for her coaches.

A talented artist, she used breaks in the action to show off her creative creations, and, if her parents or guardians are out there listening, they should let me publish some of them here on Coupeville Sports.

My email is davidsvien@hotmail.com, and I’m serious.

It’s what this blog is primarily made for — writing about basketball and curating artwork. True story.

Whether they were crafting masterpieces on their tablet, or in living color down on the hardwood, every CMS hoops star in attendance Thursday finished the day strongly.

Heads held high. Lessons learned. Elbows nicely sharpened.

And, you may have noticed, I never did tell you what the scores of Thursday’s games were.

I know King’s won both games. You know King’s won both games.

We don’t need to know the scores, which will be forgotten about in a day, a week, a month.

What will be remembered, hopefully as each of these bright, hard-working Wolf girls go forward and continue playing God’s chosen sport of basketball for many more years, is this:

“If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.”

Yes, yes, that’s lifted from Hoosiers, the greatest sports movie ever made. I never said all my thoughts were originals.

But, if it’s true, it’s true. And it’s true.

This is your time, ladies. Keep working, keep building, keep hustling.

You’re on the right path.

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Wyatt Fitch-Marron and company made big strides during a middle school basketball season which ended Thursday in Shoreline. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

They’ve reached the end of the road. For now.

The Coupeville Middle School boys basketball teams put a cap on things Thursday, playing their season finale in Shoreline against always-strong King’s.

The Wolves entered the season with a huge chunk of the roster having little to no experience, and eight games later the CMS coaches exit with hope for the future.

“Excellent progress by the team over the short, but challenging year,” said Jon Roberts, who teamed with Craig Anderson to lead Coupeville through the campaign.

How Thursday’s finales played out:

 

Varsity:

Even missing its go-go sixth man, banger Jayden McManus, the Wolves hung tough in a 41-29 loss.

Coupeville, which had only three veterans on its roster, finished 3-5, with a play or two being the difference between being 5-3.

The biggest problem Thursday was an unforgiving basket, which gave the visitors the cold shoulder for much of the game.

“The rim rejected everything we tossed at it like Charles Barkley was sitting on it!,” Roberts said.

Chase Anderson paced the Wolves in the finale, pouring in a team-high 13 points, including a three-ball to kick things off.

Camden Glover banked home eight in support, with Aiden O’Neill tossing in six, and Riley Lawless rounding out things with a bucket.

As they have all season, valuable role players Easton Green and Malachi Somes brought big energy on the defensive side of the floor.

 

JV:

Coupeville’s very-inexperienced second unit wasn’t able to nab a win this season, but the Wolves were tenacious, and often surprising in their improvement.

Thursday’s finale was a 50-6 loss, with Carson Grove, Lawless, and Jacob Schooley finding the bottom of the net on successful shots.

Also seeing floor time were Jonah Weyl, Matthew Kuzma, George Spear, Zach Blitch, Kenny Jacobsen, Dylan Robinett, and Joshua Stockdale.

They were joined by Captain Teuscher, Ethan Walling, Jackson Waterbury, Wyatt Fitch-Marron, Max Ohme, Mahkai Myles, and Beckett Green.

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Teagan Calkins played strongly Monday at Shoreline. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

“Today was by far the best we have played this season yet.”

While both Coupeville Middle School volleyball teams fell to powerhouse King’s on the road Monday, Wolf coach Cris Matochi came away quite pleased.

“Our team has improved substantially, and today we had a bunch of incredible plays,” he said. “We also have improved our skills, and the girls stepped in and fought really hard.

“Coach Katie (Kiel) and I are extremely proud of these girls, and I could’ve not asked for a better performance from them.”

Coupeville, which was wrapping up a three-game road trip to start the season, knew going in the task would be monumental.

Yet the Wolves never flinched while facing a private school juggernaut.

“King’s was a very well-trained and developed team, with tall and athletic players,” Matochi said.

“Before we stepped in to the court, I asked the girls to play like they are David against Goliath. They all followed that motto whole-heartedly!”

Matochi praised the entire roster of young spikers for their grit and determination, while casting a spotlight on a terrific trio.

Teagan (Calkins), Brynn (Parker), and Tenley (Stuurmans) did an incredible job with setting, and every single player that came in to the game — whether for a specific role or to play around — was able to show improvement and tenacity.”

From here on out, the Wolves remain on Whidbey, with three-straight home matches, then a short trip down Island to face Langley in the season finale.

First up is Granite Falls, which comes to Coupeville this Wednesday, Oct. 13. Tipoff is 3:15 PM.

“We are extremely proud of these group of girls, and we are so excited to play the next matches and see what our future holds,” Matochi said.

“The biggest goal that Katie and I have is for the girls to have fun and play hard,” he added. “We accomplished those things so well today, and I’m so proud of them for fighting like David!”

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Wolves (l to r) Ivy Rudat, Mikayla Wagner, and Noelle Western celebrate making the medal stand Saturday in Shoreline. (Elizabeth Bitting photos)

The Wolves went 15 strong.

The weather was hot, the times hotter.

Running on the “most difficult course of the season” Saturday in Shoreline, eight of 15 Coupeville Middle School cross country runners set PR’s.

The event was the King’s Roller Coaster Trail Run, which sent harriers across a 1.6-mile course in a race which featured 74 middle school racers.

There were another 155 high school runners taking part in their own races, though Coupeville’s team was not present.

It wasn’t missed, however, as the CMS squad was ready to own the spotlight.

The Wolves sent three runners to the awards podium, with Mikayla Wagner (6th), Ivy Rudat (9th), and Noelle Western (10th) all earning medals for their performances.

On the boys side, Easton Green just missed, finishing in 12th.

Bear Creek won the boys team race, while host King’s came out on top in the girls competition.

CMS was fourth, and third, respectively.

Wolf coach Elizabeth Bitting headed back to Whidbey feeling good about her young athletes, and how they handled the day.

“The sun was out, and it was hot, hot, hot, but not as hot as the eight athletes that PR’D on a hilly, hilly course!,” she said.

“It was glorious!!!”

Making the day better were the Wolf faithful who made the trek to the big city with the team.

“Thank you to all the parents and grandparents who made it out to cheer the team on!,” Bitting said. “We appreciate your support and you!”

 

Complete Saturday results:

 

GIRLS:

Mikayla Wagner (6th) 12:59.48 *PR*
Ivy Rudat (9th) 13:17.95 *PR*
Noelle Western (10th) 13:24.14
Aleksia Jump (14th) 13:55.66 *PR*
Marin Winger (23rd) 15:53.88 *PR*
Liza Zustiak (24th) 16:21.70
Laken Simpson (26th) 16:52.89
Devon Wyman (27th) 17:17.18 *PR*
Emma McFadden (31st) 18:39.70 *PR*
Mary Western (33rd) 20:14.89

 

BOYS:

Easton Green (12th) 11:53.48
Beckett Green (17th) 12:24.14
Wyatt Fitch-Marron (21st) 13:07.79
Axel Marshall (24th) 13:26.54 *PR*
Zack Blitch (39th) 18:09.23 *PR*

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Sisters Kassie (left) and Kayla Lawson were key players for the 2007-2008 CHS girls basketball squad. (Photo poached from Laurie Smith)

It was the best of times.

Jump back 13 years to January 4-5 in the year of Our Lord 2008, and the Coupeville High School girls basketball team was on fire.

Coming off of a two-week break between contests, the Wolves exploded into the new year with back-to-back wins in a 24-hour span, running their winning streak to five games.

While that CHS hoops squad eventually finished 10-10 (at least according to the scorebook), head coach Blake Severns got a taste of what was to come, with super sophomores Megan Smith and Ashley Manker ripping up the hardwood.

The Wolves, as usual, were repping a small school in a league full of athletic heavyweights like Archbishop Thomas Murphy and Cedarcrest, but they were ultra-competitive.

And that was never more apparent than during that two-day stretch in early January, when they won in two different towns, including taking down private school baddie King’s on its home floor.

Coupeville actually swept the two-game season series from the Knights in 07-08, beating the richniks a second time on The Rock Jan. 18.

So they had that going for them, which was really, really nice.

But back to Jan. 4-5, as the Wolves returned to the court after not playing since a Dec. 21 win over Friday Harbor.

Following thumpings of South Whidbey and Granite Falls, that ran their win streak to three, before Christmas and such arrived to shut things down.

Based on what we can glean from the scorebook, the layoff may have slapped some rust on Coupeville’s shooting touch, as it scraped together just two buckets in the first eight minutes, trailing visiting Sultan 10-6 after one frame.

Smith splashed home the first three-ball of the new year, while Shawna West matched her point total with a basket and a free throw.

Charity shots were a problem all night for the Wolves, though, as they converted just one of five from the line in the opening quarter, and finished 9-25.

Yet still won by double-digits, so, maybe free throws are overrated.

Said no coach ever.

The second quarter was a bit better, with Kayla Lawson and Manker each tossing in four points apiece, while the Wolf defense clamped down on the Turk shooters, forcing a 14-14 tie at the half.

With their shooting fingers loosened up, and their defense still locked-in, the Wolves used a 9-3 run in the third to take the lead, then coasted home for the win.

The final frame was a frantic one, however, at least on the scoreboard, as the two squads combined to score 46% of their total points in just one eight-minute stretch.

It was 23-17 at the end of the third, yet the fourth was its own game, with five Wolves scoring (and four successfully hitting free throws!) during a torrid 19-15 battle royal.

Smith tickled the twines for her third trey of the night, while Paige Mueller slipped through the defense for a quick four points, but it was Manker who stood tallest.

Capping a game-high 14-point performance, Coupeville’s inside threat racked up three buckets and a pair of free throws in the final quarter.

On the night, six of nine Wolves to see action scratched their names in the scorebook, with Smith (11), Mueller (6), Kayla Lawson (4), West (4), and Kassie Lawson (3) all scoring.

Marie Hesselgrave, Hayley Ebersole, and Sarah Vass also saw floor time, while future scrappy Wolf star Courtney Boyd was likely creating havoc while cheering from the bench.

While the win was a nice one, Severns and his crew had little time to bask in the afterglow of a 42-32 win.

They were heading off to Shoreline the very next day, their four-game win streak at stake as they prepared to face off with the evil empire.

King’s had the name, but not the game this time out, though, as Coupeville jumped on them early, survived a third-quarter scare, then escaped out the door with the big W.

Kassie Lawson peppered the rim for a pair of first-quarter buckets as the Wolves came out super-balanced, with six players netting points before the halftime break.

Up 10-6 after one frame, CHS held King’s to just a pair of free throws in the second quarter en route to amassing a 19-8 advantage through 16 minutes.

Then, the Knights woke up. At least for a bit.

Using a 21-11 surge in the third, King’s closed within a single, solitary point at 30-29 headed into the closing eight-minute leg.

To which the Wolves, to a woman, apparently said, “No problemo.”

Smith and West anchored Coupeville down the stretch, combining to score nine of their team’s 12 fourth quarter points, while Manker banked in a bucket and Kassie Lawson drained a key free throw.

It was a very-effective one-two punch, as Smith, who finished with a game-high 14 points, and West, who tallied 10, scored 18 of Coupeville’s 23 second-half points.

Backing them up, Manker finished with six, while Kassie Lawson (5), Mueller (4), and Ebersole (3) also scored in a 42-37 win.

Heading home, things must have looked really good for the Wolves, then 6-3, even though they would have known the remainder of the schedule was going to be brutal.

Just 10 days away was a rematch with King’s.

That turned out to be one of the biggest single-game moments in CHS hoops history, as Kassie Lawson banked in a buzzer-beating three-ball in overtime, sending the Knights weeping to the locker room after a 33-32 Wolf win.

Smith, who would finish her prep career as the #4 scorer in Coupeville girls hoops history (#3 at the time, but Makana Stone was on her way) led the Wolves in 07-08, banking in 255 points.

She was one of three CHS players to break triple digits that season, with Manker (151) and West (122) providing able support.

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