Boys basketball starters have deep Island roots

Four years ago, from the bleachers of Yakima’s Sundome, four young boys watched the 2006 Vashon Pirates take third in the 2A state basketball championship. It was the best season finish of any Vashon High School boys’ team.

In the back seat of the car on the way home, an eighth-grade John Gage and seventh-grade Alex Wegner vowed that they would come back to play on that Sundome floor.

Those young boys, who once watched from the bleachers, are now four of the five starters for the 2010 Pirates: Quinn Holert, Elias Weston, John Gage and Alex Wegner. Both Holert and Weston watched their older brothers on that 2006 team. Wegner’s sister was on the roster of the Vashon girls’ team, playing in the same 2006 tournament.

The fifth starter, Matt Kerns, lives in Seattle and began commuting to the district in middle school. His Nisqually League roots also run deep — his grandfather is a former Port Townsend basketball coach.

This year’s state appearance will be the third for Kerns, Gage, Weston and Wegner and the second for Holert. For the sixth year in a row, the boys reign as Nisqually League basketball champs. And they return to the Sundome as defending 2009 state champions.

At least part of the success of this team started years ago when parents of those 2006 players took the helm of Vashon Island Junior Basketball (VIJB).

With a shared passion for the sport, they developed the VIJB programs to go beyond a local Vashon youth league to give these players chances to play in the Seattle Parks and Amateur Athletic Union leagues.

Holert joined a VIJB team in kindergarten, coached by his dad Carl. Wegner, not yet a kindergartener, started the same year. His team was coached by his dad Derek. Gage came on board in fourth-grade, joining Wegner’s team. Weston showed up in fourth-grade when his family moved back to Vashon after an absence.

All five played on Seattle Parks teams out of West Seattle, coached by the fathers of Holert and Wegner. The other seven “homegrown” players on the varsity squad also got their start in VIJB: Christian Hasson, Matt Amick, Corey Williamson, Tyler Stoffer, Hamzah Griffin, Dan Lofland and Jesse Hazzard. For most, their dads were also their first VIJB coaches.

Fueled by hard work, inspired by the players who paved the way and supported by parents with a passion for the sport, the 2010 Pirates are on to state.

— Glenna Mileson is the mother of Pirate Alex Wegner.

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