Photo by Karla Reynolds
TOP FORM – La Conner High’s Dahlton Zavala prepares to pin his foe during Saturday’s wrestling action in Bellingham. Zavala opened the mat campaign with four straight wins in what was an impressive debut for the Braves.
Wrestling program still in good hands
By Bill Reynolds
Despite the retirement of their veteran coach, La Conner High wrestlers believe they still have a firm hold on what it takes to challenge for a league crown.
“We have a lot of potential this year,” says senior Nathan Parker, who wrestles in the 285-pound class. “We don’t have a whole lot of guys, but the guys we have are good.
“Once we get into some tournaments,” Parker adds, “I think we’re going to be really good.”
Parker knows well of what he speaks.
As a junior, he was one of four La Conner wrestlers to have qualified for State in what was popular mentor Mike Compton’s swan song.
Much of the reason for optimism on the part of Parker and others in the La Conner camp is the Braves can pin their 2011-12 hopes on a smooth transition at the top.
Compton is succeeded by his former chief lieutenant, Barry Harper, who last season was the hands-down choice as League Assistant Coach of the Year.
Harper brings with him not only experience and familiarity with the program, but also his son, Ben, a talented sophomore returnee who will compete in the 132-pound class.
That, in itself, is huge.
That’s because the Braves – who can pencil in Parker, fellow senior Martin Sampson, sophomore Sheldon Williams, and battle-tested junior William Zeimantz in the 285s – don’t have a lot of numbers when it comes to the lighter weight divisions.
Newcomer Jimmy Garcia, a sophomore, will represent La Conner in the 138-pound class along with senior Kevin Aske, one of the program’s key returnees.
Junior Dahlton Zavala, another of La Conner’s returning State qualifiers, will again provide the Braves a rare blend of strength and athleticism in the 160-pound division.
Todd Hoagland, one of five seniors on the 12-man roster, will draw the always tough 170-pound assignment.
Cameron Wischhusen and Robert Duckworth, both of whom were strong competitors a year ago, return to the 182 and 195-pound ranks, respectively.
Wischhusen is a senior. The sophomore Duckworth will be joined in the 195s by freshman prospect Terry Jimmy.
But the Braves will somehow have to offset the loss to graduation of State qualifier Brandon Drye, and the absence of sophomore Wil James, who opted this winter for basketball.
La Conner must also cope with a difficult League slate that includes perennial powers Concrete and Tacoma Baptist.
Still, the Braves placed third in League and Regionals last year – finishes Harper believes will help lay the foundation for a successful campaign ahead.
“I feel pretty good about the season,” Harper said. “Concrete and Tacoma Baptist are always very tough, but I think we’re coming along nicely and have a real good chance to contend.”
The Braves’ performance at their inaugural matches of the season Saturday in Bellingham confirms that view.
Zavala won all four of his contests, while Wischhusen, Zeimantz, and Ben Harper came out on top three times. Garcia, pushed up to the 145-pound class, split four decisions.
Duckworth also broke into the win column at Bellingham.
“Everyone wrestled really hard,” Coach Harper said afterward. “And there was definitely some good competition up there.”
The La Conner wrestlers were pitted against foes from 2A and 3A schools.
“We need to work on being better on our feet, offensively and defensively,” Harper said. “We will also work on getting out from underneath, staying off our hips, and getting hand control.”
The Braves’ grapplers resume mat action Dec. 9 at Friday Harbor.
In a related note:
*From the quality rather than quantity department, Harper said the La Conner girls’ wrestling ranks will feature two contestants this winter. Freshman Frances Zeimantz is in the 154-pound division, while sophomore Amber Drye will compete in the 160s.
Photo by Melissa Reynolds
COOK’S CHOICE – La Conner’s Jonah Cook breaks free for two of his eight points in the Braves’ season debut at Blaine. Cook and his teammates served up a 59-56 non-league win.
Boys’ hoop team wins tense border clash
By Bill Reynolds
The Blaine Borderites tried several defenses Friday on Landy James.
Trouble was, they didn’t use the one that might’ve worked.
The hosts failed to lock the La Conner sharpshooter out of their gym, and they had ample opportunity to do so when James made a leaping save along the baseline late in the third period and briefly ended up out of sight in the building’s lobby area.
James quickly returned to the court, much to Blaine’s chagrin.
He meshed a fadeaway perimeter trey as time expired in the third period, a shot that helped propel the Braves to a 59-56 upset win in overtime.
James finished with a team-high 23 points, nine of which came from beyond the three-point line.
Despite nursing ankle injuries, Mike Wilbur (10) and Spencer Novak (10) also scored in double figures for La Conner (1-0), which used its superior quickness to overcome Blaine’s decided size advantage.
Jonah Cook and Bobby Poulton did yeoman work for La Conner in the paint against the Borderites’ imposing front line.
Cook meshed eight points, while Poulton added six tallies and four rebounds for the victors.
Sean Hulbert, whose earlier buzzer beater was the difference in La Conner’s 43-42 junior varsity triumph, rounded out the Braves’ attack with a pair of free throws.
La Conner would need every point to prevail against what head coach Scott Novak called “a very big and physical team.”
A large and boisterous crowd was treated to a tense, seesaw affair in which the Braves used a 10-7 run in the extra session to decide the issue.
Blaine’s height posed problems all night.
“It felt like we were out of sync the entire game,” Novak said afterward, “but the guys somehow found a way to win. They deserve all the credit for playing through the adversity and not giving in.”
In addition to Spencer Novak and Wilbur being hobbled, the Braves were without Tyler Howlett at Blaine.
Coach Novak is hopeful his club will soon be at full strength.
“As we get healthier,” he said, “I expect us to really step it up a notch.”
Which is saying a lot, given that Blaine is a traditional Northwest hoop power whose products include former University of Oregon star and current NBA player Luke Ridnour.
While LaConner struggled at times from the floor, the Braves helped themselves at Blaine from the charity stripe.
La Conner converted 16 of 23 foul shots, with James meshing six of eight attempts and Wilbur knocking down four of six freebies.
Spencer Novak, who was three of four from the line, also buried a trey for the winners.
The Braves are scheduled to resume play this Friday at home against Shoreline Christian, with the junior varsity tipoff set for 4:30 p.m.
La Conner travels Saturday to Meridian for a matinee twinbill. The JVs get under way at 1:30 p.m., followed by the varsity contest.
Photo by Melissa Reynolds
DEFENSE - Aubrey Stewart and Anna Cook apply defensive pressure during Friday’s non-league hoop action at 2A Blaine. Defense kept LaConner in the game despite trailing early by double-digits. The hosts held on for a 42-37 triumph.
Lady Braves nearly rebound from slow start at Blaine
By Bill Reynolds
The La Conner girls’ basketball team fell short trying to tackle a tall order: A road win against tough 2A foe Blaine.
The hosts fended off a spirited La Conner rally Friday to escape with a tougher than expected 42-37 non-league triumph.
LaConner fell behind 21-6 at the outset but then closed the gap behind the stellar floor play of Priscilla Ponce-Venegas and outside shooting from Katie McKnight.
Ponce-Venegas paced La Conner with 15 points on six of nine field goals and three of four free throw attempts.
She also grabbed three rebounds and dished off a pair of assists.
McKnight, who added six tallies, hit La Conner’s lone perimeter trey of the night.
The Lady Braves overcame a sluggish start, in which they trailed by as many as 15 points, to pull within 25-18 at the break.
The two clubs played on even terms the rest of the way, with La Conner closing to within one point in the second half.
“Other than our slow start, I’m extremely happy with what I saw from the team,” the Braves’ head coach Scott Novak said afterward. “Blaine is a very solid team that is capable of scoring a lot of points.”
But that didn’t happen against La Conner.
Novak credited his team’s work ethic with keeping Blaine from pulling away.
“To hold them to 42 points after the start we had is very encouraging,” Novak said. “The girls stepped it up defensively and made hustle play after hustle play to claw their way back into the game.”
The Lady Braves benefitted from a balanced attack. In addition to Ponce-Venegas and McKnight, five other La Conner scorers landed on the point parade.
Aubrey Stewart (5), Alyssa McCormick (5), Nikki Finley (2), Kelley McClung (2), and Anna Cook (2) reached the scoring column for La Conner High.
Cook also made her presence felt on the glass, hauling down a team-best seven rebounds.
She also matched Ponce-Venegas with two assists.
“If they continue to work hard and listen in practice,” Novak said of his charges, “the team will continue to improve on a daily basis.”
Next up for LaConner is a home date this Friday, Dec. 9, with Shoreline Christian. Tipoff follows the 4:30 p.m. boys’ JV game.
...from Braves Raves
By Amylynn Richards
BAND & CHOIR
Get into the spirit on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. for the annual holiday concert at the Middle School gym. The middle and high school bands and choirs will perform. Also, see an art exhibit by middle and high school art students.
High School students will collect unwrapped toys to brighten Christmas for local children at Friday’s home basketball games.
Also generous Santas can drop off food and unwrapped toy donations at the High School office until Wednesday, Dec. 14.
CHEER & YELL
The Braves autumn cheer squad and yell leaders earned the Distinguished Scholarship award for their collective grade point average of 3.0 to 3.49. Go, Braves!
The boys' basketball team played the Blaine Borderites on Saturday, Dec. 3, bringing home a Braves victory, 59-56.
The girls went to Lakewood on Thursday, Dec. 1 play the Cougars. The Braves won 36-23.
Then on Saturday, Dec. 3, the Lady Braves took on the 2A Blaine Borderites. The Borderites won 42-37.
The three La Conner Knowledge Bowl teams “Yoda,” “Falcon” and “Skywalker” got off to a great start this year with their first meet at Marysville Pilchuck High School on Wednesday, Nov. 30. Jacques Brunisholz, who has coached Knowledge Bowl for years has turned over the job to teacher Ben Hazlewood, who was assistant coach at La Conner last season, and previously helped coach the knowledge bowl teams at Port Townsend high school.
Hazlewood said, “The students represented La Conner well and placed second, fourth and ninth against other small school classification teams in our area.”
Team Yoda earned second, Team Falcon fourth and Skywalker ninth. Team members who participated this round were: Nathan Sybrandy, Alex Wirth, Ali Swanson; Amanda Hanstad; Sam Dixon; Anna Carlton; Emily Parker; Luke Hulbert; Jacob Shivers; Harrison McCaughey; and Grace Kim. Other team members who will join their team mates in the second meet include: Nathan Schuh; Ellen Bennetti; Ashley Wallace; Sam Traylor; Nicci Needham; Jordan Romanelli; and Lauren Travis.
The Knowledge Bowl Team’s next match will be Wednesday, Dec. 14 at Arlington High School.
Washington Soccer Central, an online entity which tracks and ranks 2B boys’ soccer statistics has named Hayden Schmidt as the freshman of the year. Todd Hoagland, who finished the 6th top 2B goal-scorer in the state, was named to their honorary All-State First Team as midfielder. On Third Team, Kory Duran was honored as mid-fielder and Hayden Schmidt as forward.
The team held their banquet on Thursday, Dec. 1. The Golden Boot award, which goes to the Braves top goal scorer, went to Todd Hoagland. The Blue Boot award for top defender went to Tanner Cyr.
The football team also had their banquet on Thursday, Dec. 1. Bobby Poulton was awarded both the “Mr. Commitment” title and the Landy James award. Sean Hulbert, the “Mr. Courage” award, Nathan Parker is the Teammate of the Year and Dahlton Zavala is the Competitor of the Year.
JR HIGH BASKETBALL
The 7th and 8th grade basketball teams played the Hurricanes at Mount Vernon Christian on Tuesday, Nov. 29. Coach Michael Bliss reports that scores were not officially kept at these two games, but “both teams played well overall. The eighth grade team had lose their first game of the season to Mount Vernon Christian, so this was a good win for us.”