Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Braves Sports, Jan. 11, 2012

Photo by Karla Reynolds
Ben Rolton  of the Morningstar Breakers traveling Australian team trying for a shot and eluding Braves' defenders Jonah Cook, Tyler Howlett, and Spencer Novak during last week's hoop action in La Conner. 
Playing basketball is Australian for fun
By Bill Reynolds
The guys from Down Under nearly came out on top last week at James Gym.
Which was okay with all involved because both sides were deemed winners in the much anticipated La Conner High-Morningstar Breakers hoops matchup.
“It was a lot of fun,” Braves’ head coach Scott Novak said after La Conner’s 83-70 triumph over the Melbourne select squad. “That’s one of the big reasons we do this.”
The fun started prior to tipoff when the teams took part in a traditional gift exchange. The Aussies presented commemorative clocks and key chains, while La Conner players responded with colorful Braves’ tee-shirts.
What followed was a fast-paced, up-tempo contest in keeping with La Conner’s tradition of hosting talented Australian traveling teams, dating to early in Novak’s tenure here.
“Every three years,” he said, “the WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) allows us to play an international team from some place other than Canada. This is the fifth time we’ve had a boys’ team here from Australia.”
Because of Australia’s location well south of the equator, the Breakers were in La Conner during what is akin to the American summer break, noted Braves’ assistant Danny Hagen.
“It would be like us going somewhere in July,” he said, “because the seasons are flip-flopped.”
The temperature in Melbourne, for instance, was in triple digits when the Breakers arrived in cool, damp La Conner.
But the globetrotting visitors brought the heat with them in terms of torrid shooting. This was especially true in the late going, when they cut into a seemingly safe 40-24 La Conner halftime lead.
“You never like to give up 70 points,” said Novak, “but this was a very solid team. They did a nice job.”
Josh Watt led the Breakers with 18 points, 10 of which came after intermission.
Ben Rolton scored 12 of his 14 points, including a perimeter trey, in the second half.
Agile 6-9 post James O’Connor chipped in 10 tallies, six before halftime.
Jacob Smith (8), Zach Smith (7), Mark Whitehead (5), Nick Bird (4), and Ethan Bowering (4) also scored for the guests.
Whitehead’s total included a jumper from beyond the arc.
“This,” stressed Novak, “was easily one of the best Australian teams we’ve played.”
La Conner’s Landy James led all players with 32 points, scoring both in the paint and behind the three-point stripe.
James buried two treys and wowed fans with a pair of dunks.
Mike Wilbur (19), Spencer Novak (13), and Jonah Cook (11) were likewise in double figures for the Braves.
Wilbur iced the game with six straight free throws to thwart a late Breakers’ rally.
Novak, meanwhile, helped fuel a fast start for La Conner, which led 56-36 at one point. He scored 11 points in the first half, meshing two three-pointers in the second period.
Tyler Howlett rounded out the Braves’ scoring with eight points.
The La Conner stop was just one of many travel highlights for the Australian team.
“They’ve toured Vancouver and Seattle,” said coach Novak, “and they’ll go on to Los Angeles for a Clippers game and other events.”
While in Seattle, the Breakers played traditional big school power Mercer Island and visited the famed Pike Place Market.
During the La Conner leg of their trip, they stayed with host families and enjoyed an on-campus dinner.
The Australians impressed both in terms of demeanor and speech.
“From everything I saw,” said Braves’ assistant Carl Buher, “they were a really good group of kids.”
Which meant the accent last week in La Conner was truly on fostering goodwill.

Photo by Bill Reynolds
Strong finish cements Lady Brave win at Concrete
By Bill Reynolds
La Conner saved its best for last Friday in Concrete.
The Lady Braves rebounded from a slow start to win their fifth game in six NW 1A/2B starts with a 49-33 verdict over the hosts.
La Conner’s Katie McKnight hit back-to-back jumpers, including an outside trey, to trigger a decisive 13-4 La Conner run in the third period.
It was for McKnight what La Conner head coach Scott Novak called a “break out” game.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Lady Braves, who trailed 24-23 at halftime and were on the verge of being upset, seized command when McKnight found her range from the baseline and out top right after the break.
McKnight’s three-pointer and layup on a run-out, sandwiched around two Priscilla Ponce-Venegas free throws, helped quickly turn the slim La Conner deficit into a 34-24 Lady Braves’ lead.
The margin swelled to 36-24 moments later when La Conner’s Aubrey Stewart, who tallied eight points, drilled a 10-footer.
Kylee Warner broke a six-minute Concrete scoring drought with a 15-foot jumper, but by then the issue was pretty much decided.
“One of the keys,” Novak said, “is we changed up our defense and only allowed Concrete nine second-half-points after allowing 24 in the first half.”
Ponce-Venegas led all scorers with 21 points, all but three coming from the floor.
“Priscilla had an excellent game,” said Novak.
One that went well beyond her scoring.
Working much of the night along the baseline, Ponce-Venegas also grabbed a team-best 10 rebounds, six off the offensive glass.
Nikki Finley (3), Alyssa McCormick (2), and Kelley McClung (2) rounded out La Conner’s scoring.
Finley got LaConner on the board first. She sank three charity tosses after being fouled on an early trey attempt.
McCormick was perfect on two free throws, while McClung earned kudos afterward for her all-around game, which included four steals, two rebounds, and an assist.
“Kelley really played well defensively,” Novak stressed.
Jessica Filtz paced Concrete with seven points. Her put-back and free throw gave the Lady Lions a brief 20-16 edge late in the first half.
La Conner, which improved to 7-4 overall, was at Friday Harbor in Tuesday’s late action. The Lady Braves are slated to host Cedar Park Christian this Friday, Jan. 13, before traveling Saturday to Seattle Academy.

Photo by Melissa Reynolds
La Conner tames Lions with first half flurry
By Bill Reynolds
The buzz going into La Conner’s league showdown Friday at Concrete was all about Lions’ shooting star Tyler Clark.
But Clark was eclipsed early by Braves’ guard Spencer Novak, who enjoyed an un-bee-lievable first half.
Novak stung the Lions with what many courtside observers, including iconic La Conner record holder Gail Thulen, said later was likely the best shooting performance in recent school history.
Novak hit 11 of 12 first half shots, including two from behind the arc, to help give the Braves a commanding 60-25 lead at intermission.
La Conner went on to cruise to an 85-42 triumph.
“I have to agree with Gail,” La Conner head coach Scott Novak, Spencer’s dad, said afterward. “Spencer’s first half was a good as I’ve seen a high school player play in a half.”
The younger Novak’s stat line at halftime read: 26 points, four assists, and three steals.
Or, roughly, the same numbers posted by the entire Concrete team.
Novak, who finished with a season-high 28 points, had plenty of help, Braves’ coaches stressed.
“It was a great effort,” said coach Novak. “The boys really took care of business in the first half.”
Landy James (19), Tyler Howlett (12), and Mike Wilbur (11) joined Novak in double figure scoring for La Conner.
Skyler Krueger (6), Cameron Sherman (4), Wil James (3), and Jared Fohn (2) rounded out the Braves’ attack.
James and Wilbur, like Novak, each buried treys. Howlett chipped in three rebounds and a pair of steals and was perfect (four-of-four) at the foul stripe.
Krueger led the Braves with six rebounds, while Fohn was coming off a superb Tuesday outing against Orcas in which he knocked down three treys.
Sherman hit both his field goal attempts at Concrete, and Wil James worked inside for a hoop and free throw.
Jonah Cook led all players with two blocked shots, and Braves’ teammate Bobby Poulton  battled inside for five boards.
In addition to Novak’s marksmanship, the large crowd on hand was left buzzing afterward by Landy James’ poster quality dunk.
Novak was extending a hot shooting streak at Concrete that had begun the prior week during a second quarter flourish in La Conner’s key non-league comeback victory at Toutle Lake.
Clark ended up leading all scorers with 31 points, most coming in the second half.
With the win, the Braves remained unbeaten, 6-0, in league play and improved to 11-1 overall going into Tuesday’s late action at Friday Harbor.
La Conner is slated to resume play this Friday, Jan. 13, at home opposite Cedar Park Christian. The Braves visit Chief Leschi on Saturday.

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