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Ben Smith scored four points and played aggressive defense Thursday as the CHS basketball C-Team played in prime time. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It’s an uphill battle.

When the Coupeville High School boys basketball program unexpectedly ended up with enough players to field a C-Team this year, in addition to varsity and JV, the powers that be had to do a last-minute scramble.

And while they did pull together an eight-game schedule against all odds, they also had to nab whatever was available.

Which is why a very raw Wolf hoops squad, repping one of the smallest 1A schools in the land, faces a formidable road.

We’re talking two games against 4A Mount Vernon, two against 3A Oak Harbor, three against private schools King’s and Cedar Park Christian and one against Granite Falls, a 1A school which used to be 2A until a moment ago.

But, while the win-loss record may not end up looking spectacular, the chance for growth, and the response of the players involved, warm the heart of coach Scott Fox.

“The guys show up excited for practice every day, ready to get after it,” he said. “Can’t ask for better attitudes.”

Thursday night the Wolves, an eight-man team heavy in players with limited or no prior hoops experience, squared off with Mount Vernon, and it went about how you would think.

Given the chance to play in prime time on their home court, in front of a nice smattering of their fellow basketball players, other CHS athletes, family and friends, they looked tentative at times, and inspired at others.

The final score — 51-19 in favor of the visiting Bulldogs — was lopsided, but the Wolves made a sustained offensive run in the first half, and clamped down on defense after halftime, holding Mount Vernon to just 12 points in the final 16 minutes.

The visitors bolted out to an 18-2 lead in the first, but Coupeville changed the tone of the game with one play.

It came at the very end of the first quarter, with the clock madly racing and the ball loose on the floor.

Plucking it from between the legs of two rival players, Wolf guard Jaylen Nitta, the team’s most-experienced player, whirled, bumped a defender backwards, then arced a three-ball high into the air.

The orb flew to the ceiling, the buzzer sounded, the ball snapped through the net with a pleasing “splat!” and the crowd of CHS varsity players went bonkers.

More than just three points, it sent a jolt of electricity through the Wolves, and they sprang out of the huddle to begin the second quarter with a new look of confidence in all of their eyes.

And it immediately paid off.

Nitta slapped home a breakaway layup, hauling in a long pass from Andrew Aparicio and beating the Bulldogs to the glass by a step-and-a-half, and Coupeville was off on a 10-6 run.

The surge, which lasted through the midway point of the second quarter, included a fall-away jumper from the right side from a fist-pumping Ben Smith and a put-back off of an offensive rebound by Chris Cernick.

The lanky soccer ace, a relative newcomer to the hoops world, began to assert himself on the boards more and more as the game played out, something his coach took note of with a nod of approval.

For a brief, shining second, Coupeville had the deficit down to 12, had the Bulldogs on their heels, and were flying high.

And then reality stepped in for a bit.

The much-more polished Mount Vernon squad, which featured a group of freshmen who looked like they had all been ballers for multiple seasons, ripped off the game’s next 21 points.

Not that Coupeville didn’t get its licks in, though.

Both Cernick and Smith added put-backs for buckets late in the game, Damon Stadler scored the game’s final basket by muscling his way through the paint, and the young Wolves had a few defensive gems.

Smith rose to the ceiling to swat away one shot, Brayden Coatney ran down and utterly demolished an unlucky Bulldog while in pursuit of a steal, and budding enforcer Tony Garcia made sure the Mount Vernon players felt every foul deep in their bones.

And then there was Jonathan Partida, who became a legend with one play.

The arguably most-talented player on the Mount Vernon roster had a breakaway, with a clear path to the glass and no one in front of him.

What he didn’t see was Partida, who was flying from behind, head up, fire in his eyes and muscles bunched.

Elevating at the last second, he flung out his arm while airborne and rejected the layup attempt from behind, catching nothing but ball and hammering it off the back wall.

It was a beauty of a play, at any level, and a testament to the heart displayed by the Wolves as they scrap towards the promised land.

Nitta paced the Wolf attack, rattling home eight points, while Cernick (5), Smith (4) and Stadler (2) also etched their names in the score book kept by former Wolf hoops star Jordan Ford.

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   “Yep, batting gloves do NOT taste good…” Having worked that out, Chelsea Prescott returns to her hitting duties. (John Fisken photos)

Sage Sharp goes low in pursuit of the perfect bunt.

Daniel Olson takes one for the team.

   CHS hardball stars (l to r) Taylor Consford, Jonathan Thurston and Clay Reilly can’t stay out of the dugout.

Hawthorne Wolfe waits patiently for an incoming delivery.

   Wolf catcher Matt Hilborn gets tangled up with a runner during a bang-bang play at the plate.

Maybe they play better on a full stomach.

Fortified by a between-games potluck lunch, the Central Whidbey Babe Ruth baseball squad bounced back with a vengeance Saturday afternoon, knocking off the Mount Vernon Diamond Dawgs.

The 5-3 win, fueled by a big RBI double off the bat of Cody Roberts, avenged an 8-3 loss earlier in the day, and gave the two teams a split of their weekend doubleheader.

The Wolves come out of the twin-bill sporting a 3-5 record on the season.

Game 1:

One rough inning derailed what was otherwise a very-close game.

Central Whidbey’s starting pitcher, Daniel Olson, tossed six strong innings, and helped his own cause by picking runners off of second base not once, not twice, but three separate times.

The only inning his pick-off move couldn’t completely save the day was in the top of the third, when the Wolf defense imploded for a moment or two.

Racking up three errors in a four-batter sequence, Central Whidbey saw a 2-1 lead slip away and turn into what became an insurmountable 5-2 deficit.

Maybe it was the early morning sunshine. The light prairie breeze. Gloves that weren’t properly oiled.

Whatever the cause, the Wolves picked up errors in six of seven innings in the opening game, and it made the job tougher for Olson and reliever Gavin Knoblich.

When Central Whidbey did hold on to the ball, however, it often sparkled on the defensive side.

George Dailey ended a threat in the sixth with a nifty double play, spearing a liner at short, then gunning down a runner who had strayed off of second thinking the ball was outfield-bound.

Olson had his pick-off move working flawlessly, of course, while second-baseman Scott Hilborn made a strong play on a hard chopper into the gap, knocking it down while on the move, then recovering and throwing the runner out.

The capper came on a play in the seventh.

Scott Hilborn started things with a throw to third-baseman Xavier Murdy, immediately followed by X-Man pivoting and laying the ball into catcher Matt Hilborn’s glove to nab a runner steaming home.

Central Whidbey scratched out three hits in the opener, with Ulrik Wells thumping a double while Knoblich and Murdy singled.

The Wolves plated runners on bases-loaded walks to Wells and Sage Sharp, while Scott Hilborn rung up the third, shooting home while Dailey danced out of a pickle after being caught in no-man’s land between second and first.

Game 2:

A complete reversal of fortune, as Central Whidbey, fueled by hot dogs, beans, brownies and the like, was locked-down on defense.

Only one error the entire game this time around, and even that was questionable, as the ball took a late hop on the fielder.

With Matt Hilborn dealing BB’s on the mound — he whiffed six in five innings of work — the Wolves were in control from the start.

They also jumped on Mount Vernon while at the plate, and this time it was the Diamond Dawgs who got the yips with the gloves.

Four errors, a perfectly-placed single to center by Roberts, and smart Wolf base-running led to three runs in the first, and Central Whidbey never gave the lead back.

When Mount Vernon sliced the deficit to 3-2, the Wolves immediately responded.

With a runner at third with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Wells brought one run home, smacking the ball off the third-baseman’s glove, then Roberts struck again.

Cranking the ball into deep right field, he ended up on second base with an RBI double, and the game was signed, sealed and delivered.

Roberts finished with two hits in the nightcap, while Caleb Meyer and Sharp added singles.

All 13 players in the Central Whidbey dugout saw extensive playing time, with Johnny Carlson carrying home multiple bruises after getting plunked twice in the opening game.

Hawthorne Wolfe and Chelsea Prescott chipped in with stellar defensive work, with Wolfe playing several infield positions and Prescott crisply rifling in throws while patrolling left field.

 

To see more photos from this game (purchases fund college scholarships for CHS student/athletes), pop over to:

http://www.johnsphotos.net/Sports/2017-Coupeville-Baseball/20170513-Babe-Ruth-vs-Diamond-Dogs/

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Kiara Contreras, seen here last year, drained a big three-ball and was a terror on defense Saturday. (John Fisken photo)

   Kiara Contreras, seen here last year, drained a big three-ball and was a terror on defense Saturday. (John Fisken photo)

(Benita Miller photo)

   Coupeville’s 7th grade SWISH squad gets ready to destroy people at a tournament earlier this season. (Benita Miller photo)

The beat-downs keep coming.

Even playing without leading scorer Chelsea Prescott, the Coupeville 7th grade SWISH girls’ basketball squad pounded Mount Vernon 34-13 Saturday.

“We played a great all-around game,” said coach Dustin Van Velkinburgh. “All 10 girls that played, played with enthusiasm.”

Coupeville pressed the entire day, thoroughly frustrating their foes.

“We have a motto. Compete at such a level that we piss the other team off,” Van Velkinburgh said with a laugh. “Mission complete today.”

While everyone chipped in, three Wolves earned special praise from their coach.

Ja’Kenya Hoskins “had a big day. She was everywhere and scored the ball efficiently,” Izzy Wells “stood out” and Kiara Contreras “played solid defense and hit a three.”

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Daniel Olson and Coupeville's 7th grade SWISH squad are 3-0 after a win Saturday. (John Fisken photo)

   Daniel Olson and Coupeville’s 7th grade SWISH squad are 3-0 after a win Saturday. (John Fisken photo)

On top of the world.

Or at least on top of the standings, which is where the Coupeville 7th grade boys’ SWISH squad finds itself after nipping the Mount Vernon Mayhem 28-25 Saturday afternoon.

The win lifted the Wolves to a crisp 3-0 and puts them in a first-place tie with Lakewood atop a 15-team league.

Coupeville, which actually has a mix of seventh and sixth graders (and one precocious fourth grader) on its roster, led from start to finish.

Running a high-speed offense that frazzled the bigger Mayhem, the Wolves closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run.

From there they stretched the gap out to 16-6 at the half and 24-14 after three.

With Coupeville running in its young players for much of the fourth quarter, Mt. Vernon made a run to get back in the game, but the Wolf starters returned to close things out at the free-throw line.

Jake Mitten sparked the attack with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Matthew Kelley filled up the stat sheet with seven points, nine boards, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Daniel Olson banged home six points in support, with Hawthorne Wolfe (2) and Sage Downes (1) rounding out the scorers.

Downes snatched six rebounds, while Connor Barton (4), Wolfe (3), Caleb Meyer (2) and Dakota Eck (1) helped out on the boards.

Wolfe and Barton had two steals apiece, with Downes doling out a pair of assists.

Coupeville returns to action next Saturday, Feb. 6, when it plays the Lake City Gold at Cascade Middle School.

Two other Wolf SWISH squads are also hard at work this season:

8th grade:

Next year’s freshmen, coached by Dakota Brown and Jake Prosser, are playing in a hyper-competitive AA division.

“It’s proving to be a difficult league,” Brown said. “The team has the talent and potential to compete, but needs to find that extra gear and desire to win.

“Rebounds, and defense are key to having success for us!”

4th/5th grade:

Under the guidance of former CHS star Greg White, the youngest squad is 2-2 and had a bye this weekend.

“The kids are really learning a lot but they are very new to competitive b-ball,” White said. “They have a lot of promise, so hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot of good things from them in the future.”

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