Paul Valencia column: Skyview girls build on program’s winning tradition

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The senior starters -- Brooke Bowen, Delaney Keser and Katie Swanson -- have been with the varsity girls basketball team since they entered Skyview’s halls as freshmen.

They will walk away from the school as four-time league champions.

“Such an amazing group of girls to work with,” Keser said. “It makes it all the more special, to be able to share it with these girls.”

“I wouldn’t want to win with anyone else or even play with anyone else,” Bowen said.

The Storm improved to 11-0 in league play Tuesday night, but it seems as if they pretty much locked up this year’s league title about a month ago. Or maybe it was in November when they showed up to practice, looking like world-beaters, the perfect combination of senior experience and young talent.

Coach Jennifer Buscher saw the talent, saw the depth, then probably saw W’s dancing in her head. If there is one possible dent in this team’s armor it is there is no go-to player. But that’s only because they have go-to players.

Keser might make four 3-pointers and score 20 points one night. The next game, maybe it will be Bowen with the big score sheet. In another game, the Storm can go inside to Swanson.

Then there are the younger players and the bench scoring.

Jocelyn Adams, a sophomore, has had double-doubles off the bench. The point guard is a sophomore, too. Aubrey Ward-El is one of team leaders.

Don’t think so? Just ask the seniors.

“Even though they are younger than us, I still look up to them,” Bowen said.

“They’re really mature for their ages, all of them,” Swanson said. “I don’t feel separated from them. We’re really unified.”

It has not always been this way. Every team has its different personalities. The seniors have been a part of four regular-season championships. This season, though, there is a different vibe.

“Of all the years, this is the most when grade doesn’t matter,” Keser said, noting no one pays attention to senior, junior, or sophomore labels. “It’s all about one team. It’s really about playing together in the flow.”

Katie Hendricks, another senior, can come off the bench and provide a spark on defense with her quick hands.

Larissa Hamilton, a junior, gives the team another post player who can rebound and score.

Wanna give other teams fits? Put Swanson (6-2), Hamilton (6-0), and Adams (6-1) on the floor at the same time. That’s just not fair.

Buscher, in her second season with Skyview, said she feels fortunate to have inherited such a group and to have taken over an established program.

“Give Steve Hook credit,” she said, referring to the former Skyview coach who started this run and also led the Storm to back-to-back state tournaments in 2007 and 2008. “And you have to give the parents the most credit. (Their daughters) are just solid people.”

The only thing missing for the seniors is a trip to state. The Storm have dominated the 4A GSHL but not so much outside of Clark County.

Bowen, Keser and Swanson know this will be their last chance. Skyview, as the No. 1 seed from the 4A GSHL, will host a game in the first round of the bi-district tournament. If the Storm advance from there, they will head to regionals -- with a shot to make it to state.

The state tournament is now an eight-team bracket, meaning all who make it to the Tacoma Dome are in the quarterfinals.

That’s something no Skyview team has ever accomlished.

If this is the squad that does that, the three seniors will know they have earned it -- through the years.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or by e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com