Photo by Bill Reynolds
LADY WRESTLERS -- La Conner's Amber Drye placed her Mount Vernon High foe in a headlock during Thursday's non-league dual meet at the elementary gym.
Braves wrestle Mount Vernon on equal footing
By Bill Reynolds
Bigger wasn’t necessarily better Thursday when La Conner wrestlers hosted Mount Vernon in a non-league dual match.
The two squads split eight pairings, with La Conner’s Dahlton Zavala, 160 pounds, Todd Hoagland, 170, and Nathan Parker, 285, each winning by pin in their respective weight classes.
Zavala was especially dominant, while Kevin Aske turned in perhaps his best effort of the campaign by claiming a crisp 8-6 victory at 138 pounds.
La Conner head coach Barry Harper was very pleased afterward by his team’s performance against the Bulldogs.
“Hoagland,” he stressed, “really looked good. He pinned his guy in the first round. He really went out there and took it to him.
“Nathan Parker,” added Harper, “also had a good match with a third round pin.”
La Conner’s Ben Harper, 132, and Jimmy Garcia, 145, both wrestled exceptionally well before dropping close decisions to top-flight foes.
The Garcia match, in particular, was a wild affair, highlighted by several lead changes before ending with a 14-13 verdict.
“I really think Jimmy can beat that guy,” coach Harper said. “He was ahead late in the match and got rolled to his back. That was a real heartbreaker.”
In the girls’ division, Amber Drye and Frances Zeimantz each wrestled twice, with the latter winning both times.
Harper said the Braves are definitely headed in the right direction.
“As a whole,” said Harper, “we are continuing to improve. Everybody is working real hard in practice. We still have some little things to correct, but the coachesare pleased with the progress we’re making.”
Photo by Melissa Reynolds
Braves survive Duck calls to post big win
By Bill Reynolds
La Conner head coach Scott Novak knew going home for the holidays could put his team in a hostile setting.
But that was okay, even after a tough 45-42 loss Thursday at Adna, Novak’s high school alma mater.
“We could’ve scheduled somebody not nearly as good at home,” Novak offered afterward, “but what would we have gained from that?”
On the other hand, traveling to Adna and later to Toutle Lake – where La Conner emerged with a crucial 67-59 bounce-back win on Friday – the Braves instead learned how to deal with adversity.
“It was a hard loss,” Novak said of the Adna game, a contest in which La Conner led by as many as seven points down the stretch before falling prey to several unfavorable calls and a couple costly late turnovers.
“It was the kind of thing you come to expect on the road,” said Novak. “You just have to learn how to play through it.”
La Conner, it turned out, proved to be a quick study.
The Braves responded the next night at Toutle Lake, where they faced an unforgiving crowd and another round of rough officiating, to school the upset-minded Ducks.
La Conner sharpshooter Landy James, despite playing much of the second half with four fouls, scored a game-high 26 points that included two outside treys and a transition dunk.
And that doesn’t include James’ best play of the night, a full-speed spin move that broke a desperate fourth quarter full-court Toutle Lake press, and led to a clinching Braves’ score.
Versatile Mike Wilbur added 17 tallies – and so much more – for the victors.
Wilbur, who regularly fills the stat sheet, added five rebounds, four assists, and a steal to his night’s work. Plus he held his ground and took a charge.
He was also solid at the charity stripe, converting eight of 10 free throws.
Wilbur’s opposite number in the La Conner backcourt, Spencer Novak, finished with a dozen points.
Ten of Novak’s points came during a crucial part of the second period when La Conner quickly turned a six-point deficit into a 37-27 lead at the break.
Novak hit two straight treys and teamed with Wilbur and Bobby Poulton on a suffocating perimeter zone trap that erased what had been an early 18-12 Toutle Lake edge.
Novak and Poulton, the latter of whom does much of La Conner’s necessary blue collar work, finished with two steals apiece.
Tyler Howlett chipped in eight points, including a first half trey, for the victors. Perhaps just as important, he played exceptional defense, drawing two charges.
La Conner post Jonah Cook, who drew plenty of attention from the Ducks in the early going, finished with four points despite taking just three shots.
The Braves shook off any ill effects from the Adna game, responding at Toutle Lake with one of their best shooting nights of the campaign. La Conner was 24 of 42 (57 per cent) from the floor, including six of 11 (54 per cent) from beyond the three point arc.
Still, it took an intense effort to defeat a scrappy Toutle Lake squad.
“They’re definitely a hard-nosed bunch,” acknowledged La Conner assistant coach Dustin Swanson, who offered a quick chuckle upon remembering Toutle Lake’s mascot is a duck.
“I’m just happy,” added Novak, “that we were able to put this one away.”
La Conner improved to 8-1 going into Monday’s exhibition game with a traveling Australian team.
The Braves, who hosted Orcas late Tuesday, return to the road this Friday, Jan. 6, for a league clash at Concrete. La Conner is at Friday Harbor Jan. 10.
In related notes:
*La Conner traveled well to the Adna and Toutle Lake games despite the three-hour distance. Among those in attendance Friday were Braves’ alums Doug Alvord, a rare four-year letter winner, and John Agen, who like Alvord was a key member of LaConner’s 1974 team that earned a No. 2 ranking going into State play. Agen wryly noted that had Husky placekicker Erik Folk not missed a field goal attempt, the Baylor-UW Alamo Bowl score would’ve matched Friday’s La Conner-Toutle Lake final.
*During a break in Friday’s action, a Toutle Lake fan was heard to yell: “This officiating is horrible!” A La Conner fan retorted: “at least we can agree on that!”
LA CONNER 12 25 14 16 – 67
TOUTLE LAKE 18 9 12 20 -- 59
(LC)—67—L. James 26, Wilbur 17, Novak 12, Howlett 8, Cook 4.
Photo by Bill Reynolds
Lady Braves nurse wounds over holidays
By Bill Reynolds
Their pride wasn’t what hurt most after the La Conner High Lady Braves dropped a couple tough non-league hoop decisions over Christmas break.
It was the fact key inside players Anna Cook and Taysha James remained sidelined with nagging knee injuries going into an anticipated tough road trip Friday to Toutle Lake.
And, to literally add insult to injury, dynamic La Conner guard Priscilla Ponce-Venegas was knocked out in the second half of La Conner’s physical bout with the Fightin’ Ducks after taking a sharp elbow to the mouth.
Blood splattered on the floor, and Ponce-Venegas – who had scored a game-high 21 points – was escorted to the locker room for medical attention.
Fortunately, within a few minutes, she was deemed okay by Dr. Wilbert James.
But, by then, La Conner had suffered a 38-28 loss in a seesaw affair that had seen Ponce-Venegas fuel a 9-2 Lady Braves run to end the first half, including a darting coast-to-coast layup at the buzzer.
Toutle Lake responded with an 11-0 run of its own to break a 15-15 halftime tie.
La Conner frontliner Aubrey Stewart, turning in her second straight strong performance in the paint, broke the drought with 1:20 left in the third period on a short jumper in traffic off a nice feed by Nikki Finley.
Prior to being hurt, Ponce-Venegas ignited a fourth quarter La Conner comeback. She hit three straight layups, two on full-court run-outs and one an inbounds pass, to pull the Lady Braves within 34-25.
A Stewart charity toss trimmed the Toutle Lake lead to 34-26 with 2:34 remaining.
But La Conner, minus Ponce-Venegas, could get no closer.
Finley managed a deft drive and bank in the lane with just over a minute left to play, but that was off-set by two foul shots and a step-through by the Ducks’ Shelby Wason, one of seven Toutle Lake players to land in the scoring column.
Breezy Hockett led the hosts’ balanced attack with 10 tallies.
La Conner was coming off a 48-40 defeat at home to Adna, whose stifling press proved the difference.
The game turned when Adna point guard Madison Beasley stole an inbounds pass and hit a short bank shot – her only field goal attempt of the night – as time expired in the third quarter.
“I thought, overall, that we did well against a really good Adna team,” La Conner head coach Scott Novak said afterward. “We were playing a little shorthanded with Anna and Taysha still out and Priscilla’s minutes limited due to her having been ill earlier in the week.
“It was the turnovers and give-away points that probably hurt the most,” he said.
Novak liked the fact his charges battled to the end, with Finley hitting a pair of deep treys and freshman Katie Novak meshing a long three-pointer in the waning moments.
Stewart’s play in the blocks was another bright spot. She joined Ponce-Venegas (12) and Finley (10) in double digit scoring for La Conner, netting 11 points, all coming in the key or at the foul stripe.
The Lady Braves, who hosted Orcas late Tuesday, resume league action this Friday, Jan. 6, at Concrete.
La Conner, which entered the week 5-4 overall, travels Jan. 10 to Friday Harbor.