News

VHS b-ball teams have the right stuff

By RIK FORSCHMIEDT

For The Beachcomber

With the Vashon High School boys and girls basketball teams clinching the Nisqually League championships, the question arises: How does Vashon High School (VHS) produce winning basketball teams year after year?

The Pirate boys won their fourth consecutive league championship with a victory last acific Lutheran University as an assistant coach for the Pirates. He stayed on, teaching math when he is not coaching.

Henry Porter was promoted from assistant to head coach of the Pirate girls this season. He is one of several Vashon coaches making up the so-called “Thriftway connection,” the many coaches employed at the local supermarket.

Sears is especially proud of his players, a group of boys who he says are remarkably committed to the game.

“They’re willing to put in time in the off-season. We play as many games as anybody in the state,” he said.

The majority of the basketball players also play other sports, added Sears, and he adjusts the off-season schedule to accommodate them.

The season this year was strong for both teams. The girls won 11 games and lost one; the boys, a team comprised largely of juniors, clinched 10 games and lost two. They now enter two weeks of playoffs, the tense and highly competitive run towards State, when the best teams from nine districts compete for the title of statewide champion.

The boys, however, have begun the run towards state with a shadow over them: Three Varsity players, one of them a high-scoring starter, were dismissed from the team for an alcohol-related incident last week. And indeed, the team seems to be feeling the impact; they lost a game Friday night — their second one without the three players — with a final score of 38-47 (see Sports, page A11).

Asked how the team will recover, Sears said, “We’ll come up with a good plan for the guys left on the team.”

While the girls’ league title was a first in recent history — according to Porter, the girls’ last league championship was in 1978 when Russ Brazill was coach — they, too, have been consistently strong over the years. And this year, the team benefitted from the fact that several players are extremely experienced.

Two of the seniors — Anneli Dolmseth who played in Montana before transferring to Vashon and Vashon native Liz Hill — played on off-Island teams. Junior Zelda Porter and the entire group of sophomores all played on off-Island teams as well, said Porter.

“Now three classes in a row have played off-Island,” said Porter, “They played a lot of teams preparing for high school ball.”

“These girls are committed,” he added. “They put in a lot of hours off-season. They’ve come with fundamentals; I was able to start with game concepts.”

Porter sees this year’s team as the start of a great future for Vashon girls basketball. “Eighth-, seventh-, sixth-graders come to high school practice. They want to be like them,” he said.

Jake Jacobovitch, father of a player on the boys varsity team, youth basketball coach and bus driver for the teams, said the credit goes in part to Vashon Island Junior Basketball (VIJB), a Vashon Park District program that starts kids playing basketball as young as age five.

“They’re playing basketball from kindergarten. Starting about fifth grade they’re playing off-Island. There’s always a parent stepping up to help.

“We have an endless supply of parents that love basketball and are willing to invest time with their children ... beyond VIJB and school seasons,” added Jacobovitch.

The success is due to “a combination of dedication and commitment by coaches and players,” said VHS teacher Becky Shigley. Her daughter Asa played for the Pirates for four years, made All-Nisqually League and played in the state tournament.

“It usually starts in the third grade. Like the boys, the girls are very talented,” said Shigley. “They’ve adapted to the new system (under Porter), and they’re having fun on the court.”

Another reason the two teams are good, parents suggested, is the simple fact of life on Vashon.

“Living out in the country, there’s not much to do in the winter,” said Jacobovitch.

Weston added, “It’s a great sport for this climate.”

Tuesday night, and two victories last week gave the girls a tie with Seattle Christian for first place, their first league championship in about 30 years. Both teams have made the playoffs in the seven-team Nisqually League every year since as long as most of this year’s players can remember.

In a community better known for arts than athletics, parents, coaches and teachers say it’s no accident that both the boys and girls are consistently strong players. They credit an important combination of factors: strong coaching, determined players and a popular basketball organization that starts many of the players shooting hoops at age 5.

“The attitude of the players is probably one of the biggest factors,” said Ron Weston, whose son plays on the varsity team. “People think of themselves as having the potential of being champions. The mental side of the game is the biggest part of the equation.”

Many say the two coaches are particularly strong.

Andy Sears, in his seventh year as head coach of the Pirate boys, came up through youth sports on Vashon, played four years at VHS before graduating in 1997 and returned during his sophomore year at Pacific Lutheran University as an assistant coach for the Pirates. He stayed on, teaching math when he is not coaching.

Henry Porter was promoted from assistant to head coach of the Pirate girls this season. He is one of several Vashon coaches making up the so-called “Thriftway connection,” the many coaches employed at the local supermarket.

Sears is especially proud of his players, a group of boys who he says are remarkably committed to the game.

“They’re willing to put in time in the off-season. We play as many games as anybody in the state,” he said.

The majority of the basketball players also play other sports, added Sears, and he adjusts the off-season schedule to accommodate them.

The season this year was strong for both teams. The girls won 11 games and lost one; the boys, a team comprised largely of juniors, clinched 10 games and lost two. They now enter two weeks of playoffs, the tense and highly competitive run towards State, when the best teams from nine districts compete for the title of statewide champion.

The boys, however, have begun the run towards state with a shadow over them: Three Varsity players, one of them a high-scoring starter, were dismissed from the team for an alcohol-related incident last week. And indeed, the team seems to be feeling the impact; they lost a game Friday night — their second one without the three players — with a final score of 38-47 (see Sports, page A11).

Asked how the team will recover, Sears said, “We’ll come up with a good plan for the guys left on the team.”

While the girls’ league title was a first in recent history — according to Porter, the girls’ last league championship was in 1978 when Russ Brazill was coach — they, too, have been consistently strong over the years. And this year, the team benefitted from the fact that several players are extremely experienced.

Two of the seniors — Anneli Dolmseth who played in Montana before transferring to Vashon and Vashon native Liz Hill — played on off-Island teams. Junior Zelda Porter and the entire group of sophomores all played on off-Island teams as well, said Porter.

“Now three classes in a row have played off-Island,” said Porter, “They played a lot of teams preparing for high school ball.”

“These girls are committed,” he added. “They put in a lot of hours off-season. They’ve come with fundamentals; I was able to start with game concepts.”

Porter sees this year’s team as the start of a great future for Vashon girls basketball. “Eighth-, seventh-, sixth-graders come to high school practice. They want to be like them,” he said.

Jake Jacobovitch, father of a player on the boys varsity team, youth basketball coach and bus driver for the teams, said the credit goes in part to Vashon Island Junior Basketball (VIJB), a Vashon Park District program that starts kids playing basketball as young as age five.

“They’re playing basketball from kindergarten. Starting about fifth grade they’re playing off-Island. There’s always a parent stepping up to help.

“We have an endless supply of parents that love basketball and are willing to invest time with their children ... beyond VIJB and school seasons,” added Jacobovitch.

The success is due to “a combination of dedication and commitment by coaches and players,” said VHS teacher Becky Shigley. Her daughter Asa played for the Pirates for four years, made All-Nisqually League and played in the state tournament.

“It usually starts in the third grade. Like the boys, the girls are very talented,” said Shigley. “They’ve adapted to the new system (under Porter), and they’re having fun on the court.”

Another reason the two teams are good, parents suggested, is the simple fact of life on Vashon.

“Living out in the country, there’s not much to do in the winter,” said Jacobovitch.

Weston added, “It’s a great sport for this climate.”

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