Winter sport preview: Built for battle in the paint, speed on the wings | Boys basketball

  • Thu Dec 11th, 2014 6:54pm
  • Sports

Wolverines 2014-15 boys basketball team: Back row

A dash of speed on the wings. A bit of flash in the backcourt.

And, perhaps most heartening of all, a whole lot of height down in the paint.

Sure, every team likes its chances at the start of a new season. Friday Harbor is no different in that regard. But having a bounty of proven assets to wield would appear to make a healthy dose of optimism for the prospects ahead something more than a simple inclination for pre-season wishful thinking.

“We’re optimistic, pretty much like everyone else is at the start of the season,” Coach Rod Turnbull said. “We’re a little taller than we’ve been in the past, we have some experienced players and so far these guys seem to have a real good team chemistry. That’s important.”

For the Wolverines, there’s also a trophy to defend—a shot of added incentive.

The Friday Harbor boys basketball team enters the 2014-15 season as two-time defending Northwest 2B/1B League champ, capturing back-to-back league titles without a single loss in league play.

The team’s performance in league competition will take on added significance this season. More on that in a moment.

A year ago, the Wolverines, winners of eight of their final 10 regular-season games, finished the season undefeated in league, at 7-0, and 14-11 overall. They made a deep playoff run before ending post-season play just one win away from securing a state tournament berth.

This year, Friday Harbor will be without its two leading scorers from a year ago, Otis Cooper-West and C.J. Woods, lost to graduation. The game plan for 2014-15 will rely heavily on the experience and wingspan of Gabe Lawson and Peter Strasser, a pair of 6-foot 3-inch seniors with proven ability to score, rebound and defend, and to get up and down the court as well.

At 6’6”, junior Kyle Jangard adds even more height and presence to an already lengthy lineup inside, and the addition of 6-foot 2-inch sophomore John Gustafson promises to give the Wolverines as sturdy and deep an inside game as they’ve had in quite some time.

Turnbull, now in his 13th year at the helm, envisions making the most of the team’s height on both the offensive and defensive end of court.

In the backcourt, the Wolverines will be somewhat shorter on experience than they are in the paint. But in senior Jake Bower, and fellow senior Bill Revercomb back in the lineup, they have a pair of swift, skilled and savvy ball-handlers. Speed in the backcourt increases by leaps and bounds with track star Willie Blackmon on the floor, and junior Danil Sonjaya showed an elusiveness off the dribble and ability to get to the rim in the season opener.

“I think we’ll be able to get up and down the court pretty well,” Turnbull said.

The Wolverines open the season at home, host of the Tip-off Classic, a two-day, four-team tournament. They’ll compete in a post-Christmas Day tournament in Port Townsend, but every other contest on the team’s regular-season schedule, with exception of two, will pit Friday Harbor against a league rival, one game at home and one away, and all count in the league title chase.

In this year’s return to competition as a Division 2B team, the Wolverines say so long to a pack of former 1A rivals, like Nooksack Valley and Meridian, and hello to a 2-game season series against familiar 1B and 2B foes, with position in the league standings dependent on the outcome of each and every game. Turnbull sees hotly contested match ups ahead against the likes of Mount Vernon Christian, Orcas and La Conner, especially the second time around.

“Usually that second time through, after you’ve both seen what the other team likes to do, the games get a little more competitive,” he said.

— Scott Rasmussen