Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Braves Sports, Dec. 14, 2011

Photo by Amylynn Richards
 Inside job helps Braves steal win at Meridian
By Bill Reynolds
The Meridian Trojans did their homework, but La Conner still won Saturday’s big non-league boys’ hoop test.
The Braves, despite – or perhaps because of – constant Meridian double-teaming of leading scorer Landy James, managed to escape with a hard-fought 52-51 triumph.
Meridian’s pre-game scouting had convinced the Trojan staff to double-team James on the perimeter. But the attention paid to James, while merited, allowed La Conner post Jonah Cook to do plenty of damage in the lane.
The double-teaming opened lanes for repeated entry passes to Cook down in the blocks.
As a result, Cook scored 14 points – all inside the key – and grabbed a team-best six rebounds to go along with the same number of blocked shots.
Perhaps most important, he was one La Conner player who was proficient at the charity stripe.
Cook buried six of nine free throws on a night the team hit less than half (13 of 30) its attempts.
“I was happy we got to the free throw line against Meridian,” Braves head coach Scott Novak said afterward. “Normally, we’re a very good free throw shooting team, but this game we only converted 13.”
Cook’s solid inside game freed up James in the second half.
The La Conner senior filled the stat sheet with 18 points, four blocks, two steals, and two assists.
James, Mike Wilbur, and Spencer Novak all benefitted from Cook’s presence in the paint as each meshed a pair of outside treys.
In the end, Meridian’s best option was to foul.
“They had trouble stopping us,” said Novak, “so they ended up fouling. If we had converted a few more free throws down the stretch the final score wouldn’t have been so close.”
Still, Novak and the Braves knew going in that Meridian would be a tough pairing.
“They’re a good team and they play very physical,” Novak said. “We matched their intensity and ended up pulling out the win.”
That was possible in great measure because LaConner employed a balanced attack.
James (18), Cook (14), Novak (9), Wilbur (6), and Bobby Poulton (5) all landed on the point parade for the victors, who hosted Mount Vernon Christian late Tuesday and are slated visit Darrington this Friday (Dec. 16).
Novak was looking to both contests this week as likely opportunities to extend player rotations and further develop the team’s depth.
“Hopefully,” he said, “we’ll be able to play a lot of guys and try some different combinations.”
 Photo by Amylynn Richards

Photo by Melissa Reynolds

Photo by Amylynn Richards
Lady Brave hoopsters turn tide against Shoreline
By Bill Reynolds
The La Conner High girls’ basketball team made a statement Friday with its convincing 52-31 home romp over Shoreline Christian.
But the double-digit triumph speaks volumes about La Conner’s listening skills as much as anything.
At least that’s the word from Lady Braves head coach Scott Novak, who praised his charges afterward for making key adjustments following a sluggish second period.
“For three quarters we played pretty good basketball,” said Novak. “But in the second quarter we let down defensively.”
Novak was referring to a frame in which La Conner, after having bolted to an early 16-4 lead, let Shoreline creep back into the game.
The visitors closed to within six points – 25-19 – at the break by going on a 15-9 second quarter run.
“The girls really listened at halftime,” Novak explained, “and came out and played a very good half of basketball.”
Priscilla Ponce-Venegas paced La Conner with a game-high 20 points.
In addition to hitting 10 of 14 shots from the floor, Ponce-Venegas grabbed three rebounds and blocked a shot.
Anna Cook joined her in double figure scoring, finishing with 14 points, mostly in the paint.
La Conner was also effective on the perimeter as Nikki Finley hit twice from beyond the three-point arc, and Katie McKnight buried an outside trey.
Finley, in addition, dished off a pair of assists from the point as eight LCHS players reached the scoring column.
Aubrey Stewart (3), Alyssa McCormick (2), Carly Anderson (2), and Kelley McClung (2) rounded out the Lady Braves attack.
Novak credited his club’s crisp interior passing – primarily from high post to low post –with creating open looks in the lane.
Cook, who converted seven of 13 shots, was the main beneficiary of La Conner players being willing to make the extra pass.
La Conner, which defeated Cedar Park 57-26 earlier in the week, resumed action late Tuesday at home against Mount Vernon Christian. The Lady Braves travel this Friday, Dec. 16, to Darrington.
Novak expected going in that both games this week would pose stern challenges.
“These are two very tough games,” he said Sunday. “We’ll have to play very well to win them.”

 Photo by Amylynn Richards

Photo by Karla Reynolds
Braves wrestling with tough schedule
By Bill Reynolds
The La Conner High wrestling team is pinning its hopes for a strong campaign on muscling through a tough early season schedule – one that literally doesn’t dodge the big boys.
La Conner’s ambitious non-league mat slate definitely took hold Tuesday when the Braves grappled with a veteran Stanwood team, which came out on top by a comfortable 53-15 margin.
But while the 4A Spartans easily prevailed, La Conner wasn’t without its share of uplifting moments.
Ben Harper captured the 132-pound match, besting his foe by a 6-2 margin.
The Braves’ Cameron Wischhusen came away from Stanwood with a 6-4 triumph in the 182s.
And heavyweight William Zeimantz pinned his opponent in the 285-pound class.
With a thinner roster than Stanwood’s, LaConner was forced to forfeit matches in the 106 through 126-pound classes.
But, again, all wasn’t lost in the eyes of head coach Barry Harper, who knows it will take time and match experience to fully mold a young roster.
“I thought we were a little flat at Stanwood,” he conceded afterward. “But they’re a tough team and a 4A program.”
Sure enough, renewed emphasis on basic skills and fundamentals in subsequent workouts paid immediate dividends.
Harper’s squad rebounded nicely Saturday during a 10-team invitational tournament in Burlington, featuring schools from the 2A-4A ranks.
All eight LaConner wrestlers making the Burlington trip placed, with Jimmy Garcia, 145; Dahlton Zavala, 160; Wischhusen, 182, and Zeimantz, 285 claiming top honors in their respective divisions.
Harper, 132; Todd Hoagland, 170, and Robert Duckworth, 195 returned with third place hardware, while Kevin Aske clinched fourth spot in the 138s.
“We really wrestled well at Burlington,” Harper stressed. “The kids are showing improvement daily. We’re clearly on the right track.”
He noted how Harper, Garcia, Zavala, Wischhusen, and Zeimantz have begun to bring their A-games to matches.
“They seemed this week to have taken it to the next level,” he said.
Harper said Sunday he and his staff are impressed with how well all team members are addressing key points of interest, such as riding, working on footwork,  and learning to escape potential pins.
“We still have some work to do,” he said, “but it’s early in the season and all that will come.”

 ...from Braves Raves
 By Amylynn Richards
Academics are winding down for the calendar year, but Braves Athletics are still going strong.  On Friday, Dec. 14, the wrestling team hosts Friday Harbor in the old gym at 5 p.m. On Monday, three games will be played at home. The boys will play a “C” team game against Lummi at 1:30 p.m.  The girls’ varsity and junior varsity hosts Coupeville; junior varsity plays at 3 p.m. and varsity plays at 4 p.m.
The La Conner eighth grade girls’ basketball team won the Skagit County Park and Recreation county SWISH basketball league Silver-Whidbey division tournament championship on Saturday, Dec. 10. The La Conner team went into the championship as first seed. Games were played in the old gym and the middle school.
 Photo by Tammy Henriksen-McKenzie
SWISH CHAMPS – La Conner Middle School’s 8th grade girls swish basketball team coached by Mike Harlan played in a basketball tournament on Saturday, beating big-school Burlington 27-12 for the championship. Here they are, holding their huge trophy.

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