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Timothy Nitta hit big buckets Wednesday as Coupeville went toe-to-toe with Sultan. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The seats don’t get any softer the longer you hang out in the Coupeville Middle School gym.

Bur rock-hard bleachers or not, the games did get closer with each passing hour Wednesday.

And while the Wolves weren’t able to pull out any wins against visiting Sultan, losing two of three by a single play, they did provide local fans with a lot to feel good about.

How the day played out:

 

Level 1:

Sultan’s top team is the best middle school hoops squad I’ve witnessed in person, and yes, that includes any number of King’s teams from years past.

The Turks have played together as a group over the past several years, both in and out of school, and it’s paying dividends.

There are no weak links, every Turk on the floor has a high basketball IQ, they are proficient and deadly, and they will kill you in any of 1,000 different ways.

That being said, Coupeville fought back hard, and used a second-half run against the Sultan bench to keep the final score halfway reasonable at 44-22.

The loss drops the Wolves to 2-6, with a pair of home games left on the schedule.

Langley travels to Coupeville Dec. 16, then Granite Falls pop in for the season finale Dec. 19.

Wednesday’s game was essentially over after one play, as Sultan came thundering down and hit a silky-smooth pull-up jumper from the right side.

Attacking ferociously on defense, the Turks blitzed the Wolf ball-handlers into submission, converting turnovers into quick buckets and blowing out to a 13-0 lead seemingly before the official scorer could get her pencils unpacked.

Cole White finally stopped the bleeding, hitting his own pull-up jumper, but Sultan stretched the lead out to 19-2 at the first break and 39-8 by the half.

CMS sharpshooter Logan Downes tickled the twines three times in the second frame, hitting buckets on a variety of moves, but Sultan had an answer for everything.

Drop back on defense, and the Turks launched three-balls with abandon, hitting six of them in the first half, including one which dropped through the bottom of the net right at the buzzer.

Come up to meet Sultan, and it used super-sharp passing to zip the ball around, before depositing the ball right onto the fingertips of a player in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

It was sort of demoralizing, but also sort of inspiring, in a twisted way – proof rural public schools can build a powerhouse program just the same as big-city private ones can.

Sultan’s current high school program isn’t tearing up the North Sound Conference, but just hold on a year or two. Things are about to get interesting.

After one more looooooooong three-ball stretched Sultan’s lead out to 44-8 early in the third quarter, Coupeville buckled down and closed the game with conviction.

With the Turks starters having departed, the Wolves actually scored the game’s final 14 points, getting 11 from Downes, a runner from Ryan Blouin, and, finally, a sweetly-swished free throw from Nick Guay.

Downes finished the game with 17 points, just off of his season average of 18 a night, while Blouin (2), White (2), and Guay (1) also scored.

Zane Oldenstadt and William Davidson worked hard on the boards for the Wolves, while fan favorite Landon Roberts merrily crashed through anyone who got in his way, fighting for loose balls until the final buzzer.

 

Level 2:

We was robbed.

A fourth-quarter comeback fell just short, as Coupeville lost 24-23 in a game which ended with Wolf gunner Timothy Nitta being severely hammered right in front of the ref on the final contested shot.

Sadly, the man in stripes swallowed his whistle, and instead of Nitta shooting free throws, CMS headed back to the locker room having taken a rare loss.

The most-successful Wolf squad sits at 5-2-1 on the season.

The game was extremely close through the first two quarters, knotted at 6-6 after one, then 15-13 in favor of Sultan at the half, before taking wild mood swings down the stretch.

Nitta banked home a three-ball to open the third quarter, but then he and his teammates went ice cold the remainder of the frame, allowing Sultan to build a 22-16 lead heading into the game’s final seven minutes.

At which point the switch got flipped, as the Turks started clanking shots in the fourth, and the Wolves mounted a comeback.

Hunter Bronec slipped away from his man under the basket and threw down a bucket to open the final quarter, then Nathan Ginnings, wandering out in the parking lot, sank a gorgeous three-ball from the corner.

Clamping down on defense, Coupeville forced numerous turnovers, converting one into what seemed like a game-busting basket.

Getting out fast ahead of the crowd, Quinten Simpson-Pilgrim hauled in a long pass from Bronec, cut back inside and pounded home a layup while multiple Turks thumped him around the shoulders.

Up 23-22, CMS held on for a minute, but needed to make it a full two minutes.

Sultan slipped in a runner lofted in the paint to reclaim the lead, then things got dicy.

With the ball in the hands of the Turks and the clock running under 10 seconds, Coupeville needed to foul.

Instead, Mikey Robinett made a sensational play, getting his hands on the rock and forcing a jump ball, which returned the ball to the Wolves for one final play.

And it could have been something special, as Nitta, under heavy pressure, pulled in the inbounds pass and got off a shot.

As he let the ball go, at least two Turks made solid contact with his arms, something everyone in the gym except the ref standing a foot away seemed to see.

While the non-call astonished Wolf coaches, they will be able to look back on a solid team effort, one in which seven of eight players scored.

Nitta finished with seven points, while Johnny Porter (4), Hunter Bronec (4), Ginnings (3), Jack Porter (2), Simpson-Pilgrim (2), and Hurlee Bronec (1) also scored.

The only Wolf not to notch a point was Robinett, who merely made the defensive play of the game, more than earning his keep.

 

Level 3:

It was there, then it was gone.

Led by a strong all-around effort from Harlan Mouw, the Wolves carried a lead into the fourth quarter, before falling 23-21.

The razor-thin loss drops CMS to 0-6 on the season.

Coupeville played most of the game like a team very, very interested in getting its first win of the season.

In the opening quarter, JP Edoukou shone brightly, scoring off of an offensive rebound, then flat-out killing a hapless Turk on a later play.

Setting a nasty, beautiful screen, the Wolf big man stood tall and never moved a millimeter, while the Sultan player unlucky enough to come face-to-chest with Edoukou flew backwards several feet.

Landing flat on his back, the Turk stayed down, muttering about how they needed to stop letting semi trucks drive through the gym.

With Edoukou and Mouw playing forcefully in the paint, the Wolves stayed close through the first half, trailing just 14-11, then shot out to a 19-16 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Mouw was a one-man wrecking crew coming out of the locker room, dropping six of his season-high 12 points in the third frame, but it was Ginnings who had the prettiest bucket.

Snagging an offensive rebound, the Wolf guard flipped the ball back up and in while crashing backwards, landing prone on his rear as the ball trickled through the net.

Sultan got its mojo back in the final quarter, using a three-ball and consecutive put-backs to retake the lead, before Mouw scored one final bucket to keep things close.

With just a small handful of fouls to its credit, Coupeville couldn’t get the ball back by sending Sultan to the free throw line, however, and the Turks ran out the clock.

Edoukou and Ginnings both finished with four points, backing up Mouw and his 12, while Justin Jansen added a free throw to round out the scoring.

Carson Fields, Jordan Bradford, Jesus Madrigal, Alex Clark, and Chris Villarreal also saw floor time for Coupeville.

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CMS hoops star Zane Oldenstadt powers to the basket in a recent game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Like an all-you-can-eat buffet, there was a little something for everyone.

Playing on the road in Sultan Tuesday, the Coupeville Middle School boys basketball teams came away with three very different results.

There was a big win, a competitive loss, and a blowout defeat, all of which offered lessons to the young Wolves.

“Team 2 played fantastic and team 3 showed huge improvements,” said CMS coach Greg White. “Team 1 ran into the toughest middle school program I’ve ever seen.”

Coupeville, which is opening the season with five of its first seven games on the road (then closing with three straight at home) is off until Dec. 2, when it hops on the bus for a trip to Lakewood.

How Tuesday played out:

 

Level 1:

Sometimes you walk right into a buzz-saw, as this game shows.

Hitting from every angle, including raining down nine shots from behind the three-point arc, Sultan cruised to a 67-22 win.

The loss drops Coupeville’s top squad to 1-3 on the season.

Logan Downes paced the Wolves with 12 points, lifting his season total to 61, while Cole White netted a three-ball on his way to five points of his own.

Nick Guay (2), Landon Roberts (2), and Ryan Blouin (1) also scored, with Roberts netting his first bucket as a middle school hoops star, while William Davidson and Zane Oldenstadt also saw floor time.

 

Level 2:

Coupeville’s hottest team kept its unbeaten record alive, using a second half surge to clinch a 36-15 win.

With the victory, the Wolves sit at 3-0-1 on the season, and yes, this is not soccer, and yes, that is a tie, and yes, middle school basketball rules preventing overtime are ridiculous.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Right now, CMS is basking in a win, as the Wolves second squad came out of the halftime locker room up 16-11, then went on a 9-2 run in the third quarter.

Five different Coupeville players netted points in the frame, while the fourth quarter was even better, with an 11-2 surge sparked by six points off the fingertips of Hunter Bronec.

He finished with a game-high 12, while Timothy Nitta was hot on his tail with 11.

Mikey Robinett scored in every quarter on his way to racking up eight points, with Quinten Simpson-Pilgrim (2), Hurlee Bronec (2), and Nathan Ginnings (1) also scoring.

 

Level 3:

Coupeville’s third squad is still looking for its first win, but getting closer and closer each time out.

Tuesday, the Wolves fell 36-26, dropping their record to 0-3.

Justin Jansen and JP Edoukou each tossed in 10 points to take care of most of the scoring, while Chris Villarreal (2), Alex Clark (2), and Harlan Mouw (1) also scratched their names in the scoring column.

Jesus Madrigal and Jordan Bradford also hit the floor for the Wolves.

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Lucy Sandahl ripped five aces Monday, sparking Coupeville to a big win. (Brian Vick photos)

They closed like killers.

The Coupeville High School varsity volleyball team wasn’t flawless Monday night in Sultan, but it was ruthless when it mattered most.

Wrapping up all three frames with a bang, the Wolves swept the Turks in straight sets, a cut above the team’s first meeting, when it took Coupeville four sets to escape with the W.

Winning 25-23, 25-17, 25-18, CHS put a bow on its regular season, finishing 8-2 in North Sound Conference play, 13-2 overall.

The Wolves claimed 2nd place in their six-team league for the second-straight season, with their only losses to King’s, which is ranked #2 in 1A headed into the playoffs.

The postseason begins with the district tournament, which runs Nov. 2 and 5.

As the #2 seed from the North Sound Conference, Coupeville opens against the #3 team from the Northwest Conference, which should be Nooksack Valley or Meridian.

To see the bracket, pop over to:

http://www.nscathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=3120&sport=10

With 13 wins heading into the playoffs, this year’s team has tied the 2017 Wolves for the second-most victories in a single season in program history.

The all-time record of 14 wins was set by the 2004 CHS squad.

Hannah Davidson (left) and Emma Mathusek are 13-2 heading into the playoffs.

Now 48-18 under Cory Whitmore over the past four seasons, the senior-dominated Wolves came out with a roar Monday, jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead in the opening set.

With Zoe Trujillo dancing and firing darts at the service line, setting up big kills for herself, Maya Toomey-Stout, and Maddie Vondrak, Coupeville was rolling.

And then the wheels on the car started to wobble, while thankfully not completely falling off.

Playing with emotion on their Senior Night, the Turks came roaring all the way back to snatch the lead away at 18-17, then twice stretched the margin out to two points.

While that might not sound like a lot, it felt like it in the moment, as Coupeville, despite big plays from numerous players, couldn’t seem to get back in gear.

Facing a 22-20 deficit, and the very real possibility of dropping the opening set, the Wolves finally found the key.

It was in the hand of senior Lucy Sandahl, who bounded off the bench, twirled the volleyball across her palm, then lit the Turks up.

A genuinely nasty service ace, which left a noticeable burn mark on the hand of the Sultan player unlucky enough to try and return it (or so I’d like to think), kicked things off.

Not letting up, Sandahl kept pouring heat out of her cannon of a serving arm, and the Turks melted under the onslaught.

One bad hit pulled Sultan back within 24-23 for a hot second, but then Toomey-Stout came strolling along, shaking her head in a silent “not gonna happen” moment.

Rising up from the ground like a phoenix reborn, “The Gazelle” tore the cover off the ball on set point, her kill ripping cross court and burying itself in the gym wall, never to be pulled back out again.

After that, the momentum had definitely shifted towards the young women in the black uniforms, which greatly pleased the large contingent of Wolf fans who made the trek to the hinterlands of Sultan.

“Take that one!” whispered Craig Trujillo, and, down on the floor, his daughter Zoe responded, elevating and lashing a frozen rope of a winner.

Zoe Trujillo brought her A-game, delivering five kills, two aces, and seven digs.

“Blow the gym up, baby!!” screamed Lisa Toomey (OK, maybe I’m paraphrasing on this one, but I think I’m close…) and, down on the floor, Maya Toomey-Stout dropped a few nuclear bombs disguised as kills.

With Scout Smith bobbing and weaving, firing up graceful sets for her big hitters to wallop, then running and diving, scraping balls off the floor, freeze-framing the Turks, before twisting in mid-air to flick winners off her fingertips, mom Charlotte Young nodded ever so slightly.

“Girl’s OK … I guess.”

And then she smiled the big smile of a mom whose heart soars each time her offspring dazzles and delights.

Which is often.

While the second set went back and forth, with seven ties, Coupeville never trailed, thanks to big plays from freshman Lucy Tenore, stuffing a would-be kill, and senior Hannah Davidson, ruthlessly dominating at the net.

With Sultan still hanging around at 19-17, Toomey-Stout dropped the hammer, reeling off six straight points on serve – the final coming on a dramatic ace which snagged the top of the net, then flopped over, falling to the ground and piercing the heart of everyone in Turk Nation.

After the comeback in set #1, and the often-tense action of set #2, the final set was almost anticlimactic, but in a good way for the Wolves and their fans.

Up early, up big, and never really pushed, Coupeville relied on big serving from Trujillo, Sandahl, and Raven Vick, plus tons more bashin’ of the ball from Toomey-Stout, Davidson, and Vondrak to close out the evening.

Sultan fought hard to stay alive, holding off four-straight match points at the end, but its fate was already written.

Putting an appropriate cap on things, Trujillo whipped a cross-court kill, a slicer ‘n dicer of a shot, to end things and send the Wolf faithful to the exits with smiles on their faces.

Toomey-Stout (16 kills), Smith (27 assists), Sandahl (five aces), and Trujillo (seven digs) topped the stat line, with Smith and Tenore each collecting a block.

“Playoffs, here we come!!”

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Ryanne Knoblich soars for a kill. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Fear and respect Alita “The Assassin” Blouin. “My aces are so hot they’ll burn your kneecaps as they fly by!” (Brian Vick photo)

Consider it a very successful audition.

There will be eight open spots on next year’s Coupeville High School varsity volleyball roster, thanks to a large graduation.

So, all season long, whenever the Wolf JV spikers took the floor, they were playing for two things – to win, and to convince their coaches they will be ready to bounce up to the front-line squad next year.

Both boxes were checked, and in ink, not pencil.

Polishing off host Sultan 25-20, 25-17, 25-17 Monday, the CHS young guns closed their season at 8-2 in North Sound Conference play, 11-3 overall.

Their only losses were to private school power King’s (which they pushed to a full three sets both times out) and 2A Anacortes.

The well-balanced attack Monday was led by Kylie Chernikoff, a swing player who thrashed all comers when playing at the JV level.

She closed with 10 kills, four service aces, and 12 digs, while freshman Maddie Georges added two kills, two aces, and 19 assists.

Jill Prince and Anya Leavell chipped in with four kills apiece, while Ryanne Knoblich picked up two and Taygin Jump smoked one.

Coupeville scorched the ball while at the service line, with Jaimee Masters picking up a team-high eight aces.

Alita Blouin added four, with Knoblich ringing up three.

Blouin (4), Gwen Gustafson (3), and Leavell (1) joined the dig brigade, scraping balls off the floor for Chris Smith’s squad.

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Vivian Farris gets ready to let a serve rip. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Krimson Rector coached Coupeville’s C-Team volleyball squad to an 8-2 record.

Jordyn Rogers unleashes a zinger.

The Lucero twins at work – one is Allie, one is Maya, and they’re both super-talented, even if I can’t always tell them apart. (Brian Vick photo)

They didn’t get an official swan song on court, so we’ll give them one in print.

The high-flying Coupeville High School C-Team volleyball spikers were denied a chance to play Monday when Sultan decided it didn’t have enough players.

So, a match early, the Wolves finish with a 7-2 record in North Sound Conference action, 8-2 overall.

Along the way, the all-freshman squad responded well to the teachings of first-year head coach Krimson Rector, routing most rivals.

The one team they couldn’t quite get past was private school power King’s, which handed them both of their losses.

The Wolves put the fear of God into the Knights, however, pushing both matches to a third and final set.

While Coupeville fought extremely hard when facing off with King’s, its biggest triumph came on the road at South Whidbey late in the season.

Trailing 24-12 in the third set, the Wolves fought off an eye-popping 12 straight match points thanks to pinpoint serving by Vivian Farris, before eventually winning 28-26.

That win captured the fab frosh and their coach at their best, refusing to back down and always on the prowl for a win.

The future for all involved? Pretty dang bright.

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