Auburn Riverside girls poised for another run | Prep basketball
By SHAWN SKAGER
Auburn Reporter Sports Reporter
November 23, 2010 · Updated 6:15 PM
How do you top a perfect 29-0 championship season?
Auburn Riverside girls basketball coach Terry Johnson knows.
“We start over. This is a new season and a new team,” said Johnson, whose Ravens captured the state 4A title last March, the program's third state title in four years. “Even though we have some kids around from last year, it's a new group and a new focus – being the best team that this team can be.”
Last year's squad was driven by a talented group of seniors, including South Puget Sound League and state tournament MVP Mercedes Wetmore, who is now playing at the University of Washington.
The Ravens also relied heavily on the play of Kara Jenkins, Taylor Wofford and Jelisa Pretz, all of whom are playing college ball this year.
In all, the Ravens lost six seniors, losses that would be devastating for most programs. But for the Ravens, a program rich in a winning tradition, reloading for another championship run has become a routine exercise.
“Every group is different," Johnson said. "This group has some great qualities, and they're working hard. They want to leave their own mark, like the kids who came before them.”
The Ravens will be led by senior Kat Cooper, a 6-foot wing who averaged 15 points per game last season and was selected to the first-team all-state and all-SPSL squads.
Cooper will be the unquestionable leader, the go-to option for the Ravens' attack.
“I'm always ready for it,” Cooper said of having to shoulder the load. “I'm not too big on the awards. I just like going out to play because I love the game. I love playing with my teammates, and winning a state title with them would be amazing.”
Johnson says Cooper will be ready to show the way.
“She's going to – and rightfully so – get a lot of attention from other teams,” he said.
Auburn Riverside also features a talented group of seniors in guards Makenna Clark and Brooklynn Hinkens, as well as 5-9 wing Megan Amis.
Johnson said gaining more on-court experience and relying on strong team play will be crucial. The groundwork already has been laid.
“This team is really focused on doing things right, and I think that's going to be a benefit to us as the season progresses,” he said. “If something doesn't go well, they're staying positive and they're staying focused and moving on to the next situation. And we have some talent, we've got some experience.
"I think a big strength with this group is they expect to win. They expect to be successful. That drives them everyday.”
Cooper says the Ravens are hungry.
"We're not defending any state title. We've got to go out and get it like everybody else, work for it and win it," she said. "We've been practicing really hard, and we're getting better each day.”
And while the personnel might be different this year, don't expect a drastic change in the defense-oriented, up-tempo style of play.
“We want to make sure we're playing fast and playing aggressively, but we also want to be productive,” Johnson said. “Offensively and defensively, our emphasis is very similar to what we've always done.”
Cooper is optimistic that the team will blossom on the floor.
“It's very important because we definitely have different personnel than we did last year,” she said. “Having six players leave was a big loss. But this year, we're really close and our team chemistry is good right now. We're willing to work hard.”
The real key for the Ravens, however, is finding their own identity.
“We're not talking about defending anything, we're talking about trying to win again,” Johnson said. “We know the process might look different, and that it's going to be a challenge just like last year.”
The Ravens will kick off their season at the Dec. 2-4 Nike Northwest Invitational at Southridge High School in Portland.Contact Auburn Reporter Sports Reporter Shawn Skager at email@example.com or (253) 833-0218, ext. 5054.