A buzz, typically reserved for the VHS boys’ basketball team — whose consistent play has led to league playoffs and trips to the state tournament over the past 10 years — is now growing for their female counterparts as the Pirates’ girls’ basketball team moves to 4-0 on the season.
Following up season-opening wins at Bremerton and University Prep, the Pirates took on Northwest in their home opener on Wednesday, Dec. 5. There was excitement for the team, despite learning right before game time that senior Liv Larson would be out due to an ankle injury she sustained in a previous game.
Freshman Ella (Kobe) Koebelin stepped into the starting lineup and masterfully directed the Pirates’ offense as well as leading a defensive charge. But baskets were once again hard to come by, as the team continued to struggle with making its shots and only managed a 20 percent completion rate for the game. Fortunately, its suffocating defense was responsible for holding Northwest to only 5 points in the first half.
In addition to the pressure of it being a home opener, Northwest has topped the Pirates for the past two years, and coming out of halftime, Coach Rob Kearns knew the third quarter would be a battle.
The game went back and forth with the Pirates clinging to a 3-point lead until late into the fourth quarter. Then after a steal, Koebelin pushed the ball up the court on the attack with less than two minutes left to play. And after a sequence of offensive rebounds, Koebelin found herself with the ball on the wing and attacked the middle — drawing three defenders and deftly threading a pass to senior Chloe Kuyper. She scored, pushing the lead to 5 and forcing Northwest to call a timeout amid loud screams and cheers from raucous Pirates fans. Koebelin sunk two free-throws to finish off the scoring as Vashon defeated Northwest 27 to 18.
Kearns was thrilled with the team’s performance.
“This win was a team effort,” he said after the game. “We have talked all season long about being a shutdown, defensive team, and tonight we did just that.”
Next up for the team was a road trip to Eastside Prep on Saturday, Dec. 8, with Larson back in the lineup. Not content to rest on their laurels, they raced out with a 17-0 run to start the game. Kearns said the game plan was to set the tempo early, going to a full-court, man-to-man pressure defense. This plan worked to perfection as they forced turnovers and were able to get out in transition for some easy baskets. Kuyper was on fire, scoring 9 of her game-high 22 points in the first quarter. Larson made her defensive presence felt, deflecting numerous balls and running the team. Koebelin came into the game and directed a run that pressured Eastside Prep into more turnovers, and by halftime the Pirates were up 30-10.
By the end of the third, Vashon led 35 to 21. The fourth quarter saw a return of the Pirates’ lock-down defense and a 14-2 run to finish the game with a 49-23 victory. All 10 players saw court time in the game, including junior Sarah Paggi and freshman Lola Kuyper.
“I am very proud of the teamwork, defensive commitment and communication of our team right now,” said Kearns.
Up next for the undefeated Pirates: a road game Tuesday, Dec. 11, after press time and a home game on Friday.
— Chris Koebelin is the parent of a VHS basketball player.