Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Braves Sports, Feb. 22, 2012

Photo by Amylynn Richards
Braves’ wrestlers compete at state
By Amylynn Richards
Among the 12 wrestlers from the NW 1B/2B league representing Skagit County at the WIAA State Championship, also known as the Mat Classic XXIV, five were from La Conner.
La Conner sent five wrestlers: Senior Nathan Parker, 285 pounds, junior William Zeimantz, 285 pounds, senior Cameron Wischhusen, 182 pounds,  Dalton Zavala, 160 pounds, and Jimmy Garcia, 138lbs.  Amber Drye and Todd Hoagland attended as alternates.  Darrington sent four wrestlers; Concrete sent three.
Wischhusen, Zavala and Garcia were the only wrestlers in the Braves’ league to make it past the second round; however all were eliminated in round three.
Zavala struggled to gain the upper hand during his match against Jon Walling of Kittitas, but took firm control in the final seconds of the match. “Five more seconds and he would have won that match,” said Coach Barry Harper, “If Dalton had time to hold him down for a 3-point near fall, he’d have won.”
Wischhusen and Garcia’s opponents,  Jon Walling of Kittitas and Levi Seylor of  Roosevelt Lake respectively went on to win third in their weight class.
The W.I.A.A. Mat Classic was comprised of six simultaneous wrestling tournaments : Girls; 1B/2B; 1A; 2A; 3A; and 4A.  Twenty-four mats were organized into six units; the W.I.A.A. estimates that approximately 1,400 athletes across fourteen possible weight-classes competed.  Of those athletes, 36 were in the  1B/2B league classification .
 “There is nowhere else in the country that has a state tournament that large,” says Coach Harper, “it’s pretty impressive; nothing else like it, that’s for sure.”
The Braves, now in their 9th year competing in wrestling, did much better than expected competing against the region two athletes; the 2B league state-wide is divided into two regions. The Braves won the region one championship with a team score of 129. In region two, Warden won with 271 points, Reardon with 175 and Kittitas finished third with 139.
By the end of day one, La Conner was in 20th place, Concrete in 29th, and Darrington in 31st, by tournament end the Braves finished 24th, Concrete 29th; and Darrington 31st.
“Our boys did really well,” said Coach Harper, “it’s a tough tournament. Those eastern Washington schools, for whatever reason, are really good, solid, tough wrestlers.” The Braves “gave everything they had, and I’m proud of them. We learned a lot…we’ll go into next season targeting on that state tournament.” 
Coach Harper wants elementary age athletes to consider wrestling with the Burlington Yellow Jackets, “I want to point a lot of La Conner kids that way – get them started early and get their skills developed. “ Harper has worked with the club in the past and is “impressed with how well the kids do that go there.”
Other Skagit County news of note: Burlington Mayor and Burlington-Edison coach Ed Bruntz was inducted to the Washington State Wrestlers Coaches Hall of Fame.
 Photo by Melissa Reynolds
Lady Braves become true road warriors
By Bill Reynolds
The La Conner High Lady Braves will travel five hours Saturday to see if a longer trip to Spokane is in their near future.
The Lady Braves tip off Saturday, Feb. 25 at 4 p.m. in Regional hoop action at Mark Morris High School in Longview after having won two of three Bi-District clashes this past week.
La Conner, 17-7,  sandwiched convincing wins over Crosspoint and league rival Concrete around a 42-37 setback to highly-regarded Bear Creek to clinch a No. 3 Regional seed.
The Longview berth was secured with a 50-28 weekend triumph at Chief Leschi over Crosspoint, a club La Conner had edged in its Bi-District opener.
The Lady Braves, who held a slim five-point lead at intermission, sealed the verdict with a 32-15 run over the final two periods.
"It was a great team effort," La Conner head coach Scott Novak said afterward. "We knew going in that it wasn't going to be an easy road as far as getting to State, but it's doable."
Katie McKnight paced a balanced Braves attack in the Crosspoint game.
McKnight scored a game-high 14 points, all but two coming in the decisive second half.
She also grabbed a pair of rebounds and matched teammate Nikki Finley with an outside trey.
Priscilla Ponce-Venegas, who hit La Conner's first two buckets, finished with eight points.
Kelley McClung, who filled the stat sheet with a fine all-around game, chipped in seven points.
McKnight, Ponce-Venegas, and McClung each drained outside treys for the victors.
Emily Anderson (6), Aubrey Stewart (5), Anna Cook (5), Finley (3), and Alyssa McCormick (2) rounded out La Conner's scoring.
The Lady Braves broke open what had been a close game with a 10-0 spurt to close the third period.
La Conner built momentum going into Saturday with a fine 42-20 defeat of Skagit County foe Concrete.
Due to the pre-determined nature of Bi-District brackets, the two Skagit teams found themselves squaring off at the Leschi arena, in Puyallup.
The travel seemed to impose a greater toll on Concrete.
The Lady Braves, who bolted to an early 8-0 lead, were even more dominant opening the second half.
La Conner went on a 17-2 rampage in the third frame, with Ponce-Venegas scoring every way imaginable.
She hit a driving scoop shot, converted a transition layup off a nice feed from Stewart, and hit a pair of mid-range jumpers – the second of which came as the third quarter buzzer sounded.
Ponce-Venegas led the Braves with a dozen tallies while also grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing off four assists.
Finley chipped in nine points, including a perimeter trey.
Cook (8), Stewart (4), McKnight (3), Carly Anderson (2), Emily Anderson (2), and McCormick (2) also reached the scoring column for La Conner.
Novak was pleased with how his club responded to a potential losers-out scenario, coming off a tough 42-37 mid-week Bi-District loss to Bear Creek.
"We battled hard," he said. "I was proud of how well the girls responded. We had our backs against the wall, and did a great job.
"I thought Nikki (Finley) did a great job running the team," he added, "and Aubrey (Stewart) was all over the floor."
Stewart, in fact, had hit a clutch jumper and free throw down the stretch to give La Conner a 31-30 lead in its earlier upset bid against Bear Creek.
But the Lady Grizzlies finished with a 12-6 run – most of those points coming at the charity stripe – to secure the victory.
Stewart scored eight points before fouling out. McKnight also tallied eight points to tie for team-high scoring honors.
Finley (7), Emily Anderson (6), Ponce-Venegas (4), McClung (2), and McCormick (2) likewise landed on the Braves point parade.
Ponce-Venegas saw only limited duty in the Bear Creek game due having sustained a concussion in the earlier Crosspoint clash.
But she and her La Conner teammates were definitely at full strength when the bracket shifted to Chief Leschi.
And the La Conner road warriors will need to be so again when they drive farther down I-5 to Longview.
Photo by Melissa Reynolds
Grizzlies edge Braves for Bi-District title
By Bill Reynolds
For one night, at least, Bear Creek was top banana among Northwest Bi-District boys' hoop teams.
And, unfortunately for La Conner fans, it wasn't limited to the guy dressed in garish yellow sitting in the Grizzlies' student section Saturday at Chief Leschi Gym.
Bear Creek, with its long and imposing front line, wore down La Conner, 21-2, in the second half to claim a 48-36 victory and Bi-District title, sending the Grizzlies to Mount Vernon Friday night as a No. 1 Regional seed.
The Braves, who suffered their first setback in nearly two months, also play 6 p.m.  Friday at Regionals in Mount Vernon, having garnered a Bi-District runner-up berth.
Bear Creek, which enjoyed a significant size advantage, broke open a tight contest with an 11-1 fourth period run marked by putbacks off the offensive glass and easy looks in the paint.
The Grizzlies also contained La Conner scoring leader Landy James, often double-teaming him along the baseline and at the elbow with a tight two-three zone.
After scoring the game's first bucket on an acrobatic alley-oop, James had very few good looks. He finished with nine points, about half his normal total.
Bear Creek defenders repeatedly swarmed to James like bees to honey.
It was imagery, however, quite opposite the sour and even tasteless chants of "air ball" from the Bear Creek crowd each time James touched the ball.
Spencer Novak led La Conner with 14 points, 11 coming during a third period flurry in which the Braves briefly tied the score at 35-35 on a rare four-point play.
Trailing 35-31 with a minute left in the frame, Novak meshed a deep trey and drew a foul on the play. His ensuing free throw knotted the count.
But that would be La Conner's high water mark.
The Braves would manage just a single tally – a Bobby Poulton charity toss – over the final nine minutes.
La Conner head coach Scott Novak took the glass-half-filled approach immediately following the game.
"The guys are a little down right now," he acknowledged. "They're stunned. But I reminded them that the last time they lost a game – at Adna over Christmas Break – they came back with one of their best games of the year and beat a really good Toutle Lake team."
Poulton was among the bright spots Saturday for La Conner.
He scored six points, grabbed nine rebounds, and tallied two assists.
"I thought Bobby played a real fine game," said Novak, "and Sean (Hulbert) did a good job battling their post."
Mike Wilbur (5) and Hulbert (2), who missed some time after being elbowed in the face on a non-call, rounded out La Conner's scoring.
The points were far more plentiful earlier in the week when the Braves routed Shoreline Christian 57-31 in their Bi-District opener.
James led eight La Conner scorers with 20 points.
The Braves spotted Shoreline an early 2-0 lead, then went on a quick 17-2 run capped by an old school three-point play by James.
The La Conner lead swelled to 35-12 at the break, allowing Novak to substitute freely.
Hulbert joined James in double digits for the Braves, scoring 10 points, doing most his damage in the lane.
Wilbur (8), Jared Fohn (6), Novak (5), Wil James (3), Poulton (3), and Cameron Sherman (2) contributed to a balanced La Conner attack.
La Conner shot over 50 per cent, 24 of 53, from the floor, and forced Shoreline Christian to commit 19 turnovers.
The Braves also enjoyed a 25-21 edge in rebounding.
That's the level of productivity La Conner hopes to reclaim Friday in Mount Vernon – and thus avoid slipping on any more banana peels. 

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