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Tiger Johnson teamed with Jaschon Baumann Monday to upend rivals from vaunted Seattle Academy. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

“I love those guys!”

Longtime Coupeville High School tennis guru Ken Stange is a bubbling volcano of emotion, and when his players truly step up and play to their absolute best, he’s as appreciative a coach as they come.

Monday afternoon he was talking about seniors Jaschon Baumann and Tiger Johnson, his #3 doubles duo, who have caught fire in the second half of the season.

Facing off with rivals from Seattle Academy, the undefeated champs of the Emerald City League and the front-runner to win the 1A boys state tennis team title next spring, Coupeville knew it would be in for a rough afternoon on its home courts.

But, thanks to a win from Baumann and Johnson, their sixth straight, the Wolves became one of the few teams to take a point from the Cardinals this fall, eventually falling 4-1.

The loss drops Coupeville to 6-6 in league action, leaving them in fourth-place in the extremely tough eight-team conference, and 7-6 overall.

The Wolves close the regular season Wednesday, when they host win-less Eastside Prep and celebrate Senior Night.

Two of the 12th graders who Stange will honor are Baumann and Johnson, a duo he has seen blossom over this season, and their careers.

Tiger and Jaschon were splendid today. They have such a love for the game, and today it showed,” Stange said. “Their season got off to a rough start, but now they’ve run off six straight, quite a few of them nail biters.

“I’ve really been focusing on the two of them having fun and enjoying the game and enjoying their final season,” he said. “It’s really paid off!”

While the Wolves dropped the other four matches, Stange was thrilled to see his netters never back down from their foes, no matter how much private school aura they might have been flashing.

“It was fun watching the guys play against the best team,” he said. “Every single one of the guys left it all on the court, so to speak.

“They tried very hard and never gave up.”

 

Complete Monday results:

 

Varsity:

1st Singles — Jakobi Baumann lost to Ezra Magaram 6-2, 6-0

2nd Singles — Drake Borden lost to Kurt Gunlach 6-2, 6-3

1st Doubles — Zach Ginnings/Jacob Burke lost to Anders Gibbons/Josh Davydov 6-2, 6-0

2nd Doubles — Mason Grove/James Wood lost to Orson Smith/Dimitri Vladimir 6-2, 6-0

3rd Doubles — Jaschon Baumann/Tiger Johnson beat Coltrane Thomas/Blake Calvo 2-6, 6-4, 10-8

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Tiger Johnson and Co. are learning under fire in the ultra-competitive Emerald City League. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Keep fightin’.

That’s the mantra for the Coupeville High School boys tennis team this fall, as it navigates the extremely-dangerous waters of the Emerald City League.

Dropped into the most brutal 1A conference in existence, full of ritzy private school piranha, who employ aces who play year-round on private courts, the scrappy public school from the sticks is holding its own.

Case in point, Friday’s 5-0 loss to Seattle Academy at the swanky Amy Yee Tennis Center.

The Cardinals are perennial state title contenders and a pristine 7-0 this season.

While the loss dropped Coupeville to 2-3 this year, the scrappy Wolves, playing under unusual (for them) circumstances, never backed down.

Just like their coach expects.

“Rough day, but they played their asses off,” said CHS tennis guru Ken Stange. “The guys have improved a lot, and the advanced competition, while laying down quite a beating, allows our players to grow.

“I’m excited for Monday’s match.”

That bout will be the second and final meeting with arch-rival South Whidbey, and it’s set to play out on Coupeville’s courts starting at 3:30 PM.

The Wolves knocked off the Falcons in Langley in the season opener, the first time in 14 seasons the CHS boys have won that match-up.

Now, they’re looking for a season sweep of the only other public school playing in the eight-team ECL.

Monday’s match will be on outdoor courts, as is par for the course for Coupeville.

Or, it normally is.

Facing off with Seattle Academy offered the Wolves the chance to play at a tennis center which hosts many of the postseason tourneys.

“The Amy Yee Tennis Center is an indoor facility, and most of our players got to experience indoor tennis for the first time,” Stange said. “If our island had indoor tennis, it’d be heaven on earth for me.”

 

Complete Friday results:

 

Varsity:

1st Singles — Jakobi Baumann lost to Will Norden 6-1, 6-2

2nd Singles — Drake Borden lost to Josh Davydov 6-3, 6-1

1st Doubles — Zach Ginnings/Jacob Burke lost to Orson Smith/Mack Dougan 6-3, 6-1

2nd Doubles — Mason Grove/James Wood lost to Will Sieler/Dimitri Vladimir 6-0, 6-1

3rd Doubles — Jaschon Baumann/Tiger Johnson lost to Tate Gibbons/Blake Calvo 6-0, 6-2

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"How do you like them apples, experts?" (John Fisken photo)

“How do you like them apples, experts?” (John Fisken photo)

Perception is a funny thing.

After the Coupeville High School girls’ basketball squad went two and out at the district playoffs, losing to Seattle Christian and Cascade Christian, there were some who felt the Wolves 15-4 record entering the postseason was suspect.

That CHS was “hurt by playing in the worst 1A league in the state.”

Which, as the numbers will show, isn’t even remotely close, but hold that thought for a second.

On the other side of our argument is Seattle Academy, which, at 17-3, is headed to state.

So, perception, at least from the outside, is that the Cardinals must be a great team.

Except…

Coupeville and Seattle Academy met head-to-head on a neutral court during the Friday Harbor Tip-Off Classic, and the Wolves won in a romp, 44-31.

Yet, all season long, the ScoreCzar computer ranked the Cardinals ahead of the Wolves.

Mention Coupeville’s better statistical numbers and harder schedule, both in terms of opponents winning percentage and the fact CHS played 14 of 21 away from home, and the computer had only one thing to fall back on — Seattle Academy’s point differential.

And this is where perception starts to be absolutely wrong.

And why I firmly believe if we flipped Coupeville to Seattle Academy’s Emerald City League and SA to the Olympic League, we would see an exact reversal of fortune.

Seattle Academy’s 17-3 record looks great, until we realize the Cardinals are only 2-3 against out-of-league competition.

Of the 10 leagues to play 1A ball in the state, the nine-team, private-school ECL had the worst winning percentage against non-league foes by a mile.

Counting its four playoff losses (so far), we’re talking 8-25.

A .242 winning percentage when every other 1A league hit .400 or better.

Outside its safety zone, Seattle Academy lost by double digits to Coupeville, Bellevue Christian and Lynden Christian.

Inside, against marginal teams, it dominated, winning many of its 15 league games by 30+ points.

Against mediocre teams that couldn’t beat anyone other than other mediocre teams in their own league.

Which, to a computer, apparently looks great.

And, since the ECL champ automatically advances to state, welcome to the big dance, Cardinals. Now try not to get hurt.

Seriously, as league champs, Seattle Academy skipped right to the championship game of bi-districts (there are no playoffs in District 2), so, win or lose, they were state-bound.

Their foe in that game, Lynden Christian, had to get through perennial powers Meridian and King’s to escape District 1, then promptly slaughtered the Cardinals 62-37.

The other three ECL teams to make the playoffs also skipped districts, qualified for a loser-out game at bi-districts and were squished one-two-three.

Mount Baker took out both #2 University Prep (61-28) and #4 Overlake (47-25), while Meridian mashed #3 Annie Wright (61-35).

Seattle Academy’s first-round foe at state? Meridian. It’s not going to be pretty.

And now we jump back to Coupeville, which finished off a third consecutive 9-0 season to remain the big dog in the Olympic League.

Seven of those league wins were of the double-digit variety, ranging from 10-18 points, while the other two were eight and nine-point wins.

For the season, they knocked off their closest rivals by an average of 11.6 points a night, down from 22.0 in 2014-2015 and 18.1 in 2015-2016.

The computers were wowed by Seattle Academy’s point differential and underwhelmed by Coupeville’s, while missing the pertinent point.

The Wolves didn’t romp to 30-point wins in league play like the Cardinals because their league was better. Their foes were tougher. They had a harder fight night in and night out.

It’s right there in the numbers.

Three of the four OL teams (Coupeville, Port Townsend and Chimacum) had winning non-conference records, and all four league teams (including cellar dweller Klahowya) beat 2A teams this season.

Overall, the league was #6 of 10 in terms of record against non-league opponents, way ahead of #10 ECL.

Chimacum, which is barely bigger than Coupeville in student body size, won four times against 2A schools, in fact.

Frankly, a nine-point win against the Cowboys, a solid squad that won a district playoff game, means far more than Seattle Academy rolling by 40 against Eastside Prep, which finished 0-19.

Go outside the league and Coupeville won six times, including beating two state-bound teams (Seattle Academy and Friday Harbor) while playing twice in less than 24 hours on the road.

The Cardinals have no wins against state-bound teams.

If you flip Coupeville into the ECL, I’m willing to bet they also go 15-0 and win most of their games in a romp.

Why not? The Wolves already played the best that league had to offer this year and toasted them.

So why would they fear The Bush School or Bear Creek?

Put Seattle Academy in the OL and does it go 9-0 against Kaitlyn Meek and the Nisbet sisters? I’m not quite as convinced.

I could be wrong, but, if they stayed undefeated (in a tougher league), then congratulations, Cardinals. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

Now, all of this changes nothing.

Seattle Academy, despite playing in one postseason game (and taking a 25-point loss), is state-bound.

And I’m not trying to rag on the Cardinals. Seriously.

As a wise hoops coach once said, “we are in the league we are in,” and that’s very true.

Seattle Academy did everything it was supposed to do to earn a state berth. The Cardinals shouldn’t be faulted, in the slightest.

Meanwhile, Coupeville, despite being a better team where it mattered — on the floor, head-to-head — had a poor playoff run in a district where you have to actually win to advance, and its players have turned in their uniforms.

If it comes across as sour grapes to bemoan the tougher path the Wolves faced, no one should really give that much credence.

CHS knew what it faced, and while it completed the run during league, it most assuredly did not in the playoffs.

Based on those district losses, the Wolves can not argue in the slightest they deserve to be state-bound.

But it all goes back to perception, which is what’s bothering me right now.

People on the outside make snap judgements, without looking closer at what the numbers truly say or taking all the variables into consideration, and a lot of times they’re just flat wrong.

And yes, it’s very possible my own fairly limited knowledge of Seattle Academy basketball could mean I’m missing some pertinent info, as well.

Maybe while the Wolves were on the road (almost) every night, the Cardinals had to play in a home gym where the thermometer was permanently stuck at 17 degrees, or had to wear ’80s-style short shorts.

It’s certainly possible, if not probable.

In the end, we are where we are and all my nattering changes not a thing. Except maybe your perception.

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Elfrank

   Mikayla Elfrank torched Seattle Academy for 11 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two assists Friday afternoon. (John Fisken photo)

(Amy King photo)

   The Wolves enjoy their ferry ride to Friday Harbor, where they are defending their title at the Tip-Off Classic. (Amy King photo)

Based on last year’s records, the opening game of the Friday Harbor Tip-Off Classic was a match-up of heavyweights.

Based on the results, however, one of those two teams might be a lot better than the other this time around.

Runnin’ and gunnin’ Friday afternoon, the Coupeville High School girls’ basketball squad slapped Seattle Academy down hard, drilling the Cardinals 44-31.

The win, coming in a battle of schools which made it to the Sweet 16 of the 1A state tourney a year ago, lifts the Wolves to 1-1 and puts them into the title game of the Tip-Off Classic for a second straight year.

Coupeville, which is the defending champ, closes the tourney Saturday against Friday Harbor, which beat Seattle Lutheran.

The Wolves entered the tournament coming off a non-conference loss at Blaine, but the two days of practice in between games bore immediate fruit.

“We worked on some things and the players were a quick study in the two practices and came out on fire,” said CHS coach David King.

Junior point guard Mia Littlejohn was the catalyst early, knocking down six points and handing out assists by the bunches as the Wolves raced to a 19-10 lead at the first break.

Mia led the charge in the first quarter,” King said. “She dictated the pace and pushed the tempo.”

Littlejohn had some big-time help from Mikayla Elfrank, who was “aggressive from the minute she stepped on the court.”

The junior, in her first season with the Wolf hoops squad, went for seven of her team-high 11 points in the opening quarter, including swishing a baseline three-ball.

Elfrank put together a fantastic game, racking up 12 rebounds, three blocks and two assists to go with her points.

While Coupeville went a bit cold from the field in the middle two periods, racking up just 10 points combined in the second and third, its defense held Seattle Academy at bay.

Then senior gunner Kailey Kellner went off, scoring all 10 of her points in a decisive fourth quarter. Six of the points came via a pair of long-range treys.

Coupeville is putting an emphasis on getting out and running, though King admits it’s still a work in progress.

“We looked to run at every opportunity we could. They ran the lanes well and looked to feed the ball ahead,” he said. “One thing that did slow us down offensively was at times being too aggressive; that turned into errant passes and turnovers.

“We are still trying to figure this speed game out.”

King was especially happy with his team’s work on the boards, where Elfrank (12), Kellner (11) and Lindsey Roberts (10) dominated the rebounding battle.

“The team came ready to play today and our rebounding was outstanding,” he said.

Coupeville combined to haul down 48 caroms, winning the fight in the paint despite Seattle Academy boasting a very solid 6-foot-2 girl in the middle.

The Wolves excelled all across the court, with Littlejohn (7) and Kellner (5) combining for 12 assists and the team making off with 19 steals.

“Many players stuffed the stat sheet and did some good things today,” King said. “The others that may not have stuffed the stats, played their roles very well as a supporting cast.”

Elfrank (11), Kellner (10) and Mia Littlejohn (7) led the scoring attack, while Lauren Rose hit for six and Roberts and Tiffany Briscoe popped for four apiece.

Kalia Littlejohn rounded out the scoring attack with a bucket, while Kyla Briscoe snatched five rebounds and Lauren Grove had two steals.

Allison Wenzel, Charlotte Langille and Sarah Wright also floor time for a deep Wolf squad.

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Lauren Rose

   Lauren Rose is back and looking for a second straight title at the Friday Harbor Tip-Off Classic. (John Fisken photos)

(John Fisken photo)

Anticipation builds.

It’s tourney time.

The Coupeville High School girls’ basketball squad hits the road Friday for an overnight trip, a team bonding experience and a chance to defend its title all at the same time.

The Wolves are returning to Friday Harbor for the 3rd annual Tip-Off Classic, an eight-team, two-day event they won last year, when they rolled Overlake 37-20 and South Whidbey 31-27.

Neither one of those foes are back, as two Seattle teams are joining Coupeville and Friday Harbor this time around.

The Wolves open play Friday at 2 PM against fellow 1A school Seattle Academy, while the hosts face off at 5:30 with Seattle Lutheran in a battle of top 2B squads.

Saturday the teams flip, with Friday’s losers squaring off at 10 AM, while the first day winners play for the tourney title at 1:30 PM.

Meridian, Overlake, Friday Harbor and Seattle Lutheran are competing on the boys side of the tourney, but, since the Wolves aren’t involved, that’s all we have to say on that.

Coupeville’s JV girls will join their varsity counterparts on the second day and play a non-tourney game against Friday Harbor.

The Tip-Off Classic, at least based on last year’s teams, is loaded, as Coupeville, Seattle Academy and Friday Harbor all advanced to state in 2015-2016.

All three were knocked out in the round of 16.

 

Capsules for the tourney:

 

Coupeville:

This season: 0-1

Last season: 16-6

Conference: 1A Olympic League

Coach: David King

Mascot: Wolves

School colors: red, white, black

WIAA classification student enrollment (grades 9-11): 227

Best finish at state tourney: 6th in 2001-2002

 

Seattle Academy:

This season: 0-0 (*plays Bear Creek Wednesday*)

Last season: 18-4

Conference: 1A Emerald City League

Coach: Joel DeBruhl

Mascot: Cardinals

School colors: black, red

Student enrollment: 323

Best finish at state tourney: Never placed

 

Friday Harbor:

This season: 0-0

Last season: 19-5

Conference: 2B/1B Northwest League

Coach: Fred Woods

Mascot: Wolverines

School colors: purple, gold

Student enrollment: 199

Best finish at state tourney: 4th in 1979-1980

 

Seattle Lutheran:

This season: 0-0

Last season: 14-10

Conference: 2B/1B SeaTac

Coach: David Bills

Mascot: Saints

School colors: white, blue

Student enrollment: 91.75

Best finish at state tourney: 7th in 1986-1987 and 1991-1992

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