Girls basketball preview: Skyview gains confidence

Prairie will look to shake off rust and make a run at state

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

The Prairie Falcons opened the 2011-12 girls basketball season ranked No. 1 in the state for Class 3A by the Seattle Times.

Girls basketball overview

Team-by-team glance with links to team schedules, click here.

The Skyview Storm opened No. 7 in the 4A rankings.

Top 10 in 4A is better than tops in the 3A, at least for the early part of the season.

Jocelyn Adams had 15 points and 12 rebounds, Katie Swanson added 10 points, and the Skyview post players ruled Monday night in a 48-33 victory over a cold-shooting Prairie squad.

While this was an intriguing matchup for the Falcons to open the season and a test in Skyview’s third game of the season, this result will have no official ramifications for the long-term goals for each team. Different classifications, different leagues, different routes to state.

It was simply a non-league game between the two best teams in the region.

But the Storm, who had never beaten the Falcons in program history, did gain something out of the victory.

“This will help us in the postseason, just knowing we can play with the top teams and we can step up to that level,” Swanson said. “We really proved ourselves tonight.”

Skyview will be trying to get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2008 and just the sixth time in school history.

Prairie is the barometer of girls basketball in the region. The Falcons have reached the state tournament the past 14 seasons and expect to make another long run this season. They have now lost just twice to a Clark County opponent since 2000.

“It’s just a win,” Skyview coach Jennifer Buscher said. “We have a lot of respect for the Prairie program, the success that they’ve had. We’re trying to build our own success here.”

Hours before the game, Prairie coach Al Aldridge said he likes the preseason rankings, even if they are meaningless in the long run.

“It’s kind of fun,” Aldridge said of the top ranking. “It isn’t like we don’t have a target on us anyway. Just a bigger target now. I can’t say unequivocally that we’ll be there at the end of the season, in terms of the poll, but we have a legitimate chance at winning a state title this year if we stay healthy and we can get better.”

With University of Washington-bound Heather Corral and battle-tested juniors Jackie Lanz, Megan Lindsley, and Cori Woodward from last year’s run to the state championship game, there is good reason for such expectations. Plus, even on an off shooting night, the Falcons still have their defense. They were still in Monday’s game until late, forcing 23 Skyview turnovers.

Of course, Aldridge is a veteran basketball coach, so he had to be a bit cautious of thinking about the future.

“It sure doesn’t look like we’re a state championship team now. Way too early for that nonsense,” he said prior to the game.

Surely, his opinion did not change after Monday’s game. His squad failed to get much done in the paint against the taller Storm. And when the Falcons took their shots from the outside, it was a rare moment when those shots went in the basket.

Prairie was 4 of 30 from the floor in the first half and finished 11 for 60.

Not only were the Falcons missing a lot of shots, but Skyview was getting most of the rebounds. The Storm had a 50-26 edge on the boards. Adams, Larissa Hamilton, and Brooke Bowen each recorded double-digit rebound totals.

“It was the big and fast vs. the small and quick,” Buscher said after the game.

Big and fast won this one.

Adams said it was a bittersweet victory for her because she has so many friends on the Prairie team. She sat out last year after transferring to Skyview.

“I still love them,” she said.

But it felt good to win, too.

“It’s just overwhelming right now,” she said.

The Storm improved to 3-0 and hope their promising start leads to a better finish.

“We’re definitely excited. We’ve got a senior-laden team, which helps a ton,” Buscher said. “It’s nice to get some respect from up in Seattle.”

Delaney Keser, Bowen and Swanson are the team’s leaders, but the squad is deep in terms of talent.

If those polls are accurate, that means Skyview would be in the Tacoma Dome in the elite eight.

“That’s our ultimate goal,” Buscher said. “Every game, we want to get better because that’s where we want to be in March. We do have the potential, that’s for sure.”

In the 4A GSHL, Battle Ground has a lot of returning talent, as well. Evergreen, which reached the state’s sweet 16 last season, might surprise this campaign despite losing talent to graduation and other player movement. Union should be improved. And Heritage already has four wins this season, just one fewer than last year.

Skyview, though, is the clear favorite.

In the 3A GSHL, it appears to be all Prairie, all the time. Mountain View could make the leap to second place, but Camas will have a say in that battle, too.

The Falcons, though, do not expect much competition in league play. Which is why Aldridge schedules a team such as Skyview every season. Prairie also will travel to the San Francisco Bay Area for a tournament later this month — four games in four days against teams from California and Nevada.

“It’s great for the kids,” Aldridge said. “For the travel experience, getting ready for state, for the competition, and to get to play new quality teams from another area of the country.”

He also hopes the trips build team unity and some confidence.

League play will dominate the schedule after the holidays.

Over at Skyview, Buscher said she wished she could schedule the Prairie game in January, perhaps midway through league play. It might give both teams a strong primer before the stretch run.

Instead, the two best teams in Clark County played in the first full week of December.

It was a strong showcase of talent. The Falcons know that it is unlikely they will shoot that poorly again. The Storm know they can shut down a quality opponent.

And with the Skyview vs. Prairie game Monday night, the girls basketball season has officially begun in Clark County.

SKYVIEW 48, PRAIRIE 33

PRAIRIE — Lindsay Asplund 0, Cori Woodward 12, Heather Corral 5, Kelsey Asplund 2, Nicole Goecke 0, Megan Lindsley 9, Andrea Smith 2, Jackie Lanz 3. Totals 11-60 (5-31) 6-7 33.

SKYVIEW — Stephanie McDonagh 3, Jocelyn Adams 15, Aubrey Ward-El 3, Katie Hendricks 0, Delaney Keser 7, Brooke Bowen 3, Larissa Hamilton 7, Katie Swanson 10. Totals 20-48 (4-12) 4-9 48.

Prairie 7 6 9 11—33

Skyview 10 12 11 15—48

JV — Skyview won. C — Skyview won.