State champion hoopsters get ready for a big season

Tyler Stoffer, 3, watches teammate John Gage dunk during a basketball drill on Friday. - Rik Forschmiedt photo
Tyler Stoffer, 3, watches teammate John Gage dunk during a basketball drill on Friday.
— image credit: Rik Forschmiedt photo

The Vashon High School boys started what promises to be another exciting season of basketball last week. They hit the courts ready to work hard to defend their state title.

There are only 13 days from the first day of basketball practice on Nov. 16 until the Rainier Beach Jamboree on Saturday, Nov. 28.

To make the most of the little time he has, head coach Andy Sears set up team practices for every day except Sunday, including Thanksgiving Day, and twice a day on Saturday and the day after Thanksgiving.

The Pirates return five players from last year’s state championship basketball team: Seniors John “Forty” Gage, Elias “Sly” Weston, Quinn “Hooolert” Holert and Matt “Kernal” Kerns and junior Alex “Water” Wegner. This is the third year on the varsity team for all five.

“The returning players are extremely talented,” said Sears. “One of our challenges is going to be to continue to push them while developing the new faces.”

The new additions to the team include seniors Matt Amick, Christian Hasson and Cory Williamson, junior Tyler Stoffer and sophomores Jesse Hazzard and Dan Lofland. Juniors Zach Stackhouse and Patrick Byrnes will be team managers.

“I think the guys look really good,” said assistant coach Shawn Hoffman. “They worked hard in the off-season, and it shows.”

Fans coming to watch the home games are sure to admire the large State Championship trophy housed in its own case just outside the gym entrance. Referred to as “the gold ball,” the trophy stays with the team that won it until the next state tournament held each year in Yakima in March.

Earlier this year, the Greater Seattle area edition of ESPN Rise, a sports magazine focused on high school athletes, featured the five returning Pirate players in a two-page color photo spread and recognized Vashon as a team that will demand attention.

Gage was named to the all-area first team, and Wegner was included in the top 50.

“It was great that the kids got some recognition — they work so hard and sacrifice so much,” said Sears.

But Coach Sears also sees that the team has a lot of work ahead of it to be ready to face some of the tough opponents this season.

“We’re not where we need to be yet,” he said. “Our goal as a team is to get better every time down court and maximize our potential. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself,” said Sears.

Hoffman agreed. “It’s a long journey, and we’re taking it one game at a time,” he said.

The season kicks off with the Rainier Beach Jamboree, where the Pirates will take on Renton and Mount Rainier in short 10-minute showcase games.

League play starts with a road trip to Chimacum on Dec. 15, followed by a home game on Dec. 18 against league rivals Cascade Christian.

One of the toughest non-league challenges comes on Dec. 12 at the annual Les Schwab Hoop Challenge held at Bellevue Community College. Vashon is matched up with Squalicum, the 2009 2A state champions, which is returning most of its players this season.

Vashon also faces off against King’s, the Pirates’ opponent in last year’s state title game, at the King Holiday Hoopfest at Hec Edmondson Pavilion on Martin Luther King Day.

— Glenna Mileson is the mother of Pirate Alex Wegner.

For more information

A complete game schedule, a roster of players and other information can be found on the team’s Web site at

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