Columbia High girls basketball off to best start in years

The Bruins in 2014-15 are (front, l-r) Alyssa Trout, Michaela Enyart, Gisselle Garcia, Morgan Vasquez, Lauren Thiesies; (back) Aidan Liddiard, Savannah Story, Claire Anderson, Kayla McClain, and Lexy McKee. The Bruins are coached by Howard Kreps.

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The Columbia High girls varsity basketball team is off to one of its best starts ever.

In their first 10 games, the Bruins won eight and lost two. (Only one team in the county played more games, and that was the CHS boys varsity.) Inside those numbers was a 3-1 record against 1A Trico League competition that had the Bruins sitting in third place by themselves.

“We had some good starts in the early ‘90s,” recalls Bruins Coach Howard, “but this is the best start [to a season] in a long time.”

“The record,” he added, “is what I thought it could be. Our goal the rest of the way is to be consistent, not have those four- or five-minute-a-night spell in a game when we play bad.”

The Bruins started the back end of their schedule Jan. 6 with a Trico home game against La Center, which ended December at 2-0 in the Trico and 9-1 overall. La Center was the only Trico team Columbia High did not see in December.

CHS kicked off Trico play Dec. 8 with a loss at Kalama. The Bruins have not lost since. They regrouped to beat, in order, Castle Rock, Stevenson, and Seton Catholic, and trigger their current winning streak.

As for its remaining schedule, CHS will play eight games between Jan. 6 and Feb. 5. Only six are Trico games because King’s Way did not field a team this year (and Toledo, Ilwaco, and Woodland departed via reclassification).

Kreps, who is also the White Salmon Valley School District’s athletic director, managed to pick up non-league games at Highland and versus Ridgefield to bring the schedule to 18 games.

The Bruins are led by 5-9 senior point guard and third-year starter Savannah Story. The 2013-14 All-Trico honorable mention recipient does a quite a bit of everything at both ends of the court to give her team a chance to win (7 ppg, first in assists and steals, second in rebounding.)

Another key player in CHS’s current six-game winning streak is junior center Claire Anderson. The 6-footer emerged as the Bruins’ leading scorer (at 12.3 points per game) and rebounder in her first varsity campaign.

Anderson had a three-game stretch in which she tallied double digits in points (mostly in the post) and rebounds to lead CHS to victory. Moreover, in her final game of winter break, on Dec. 30 at Gold-endale, she netted a career-high 20 points.

Story is the team’s captain and only senior. Anderson is part of a 10-player junior class that completes the CHS A Squad.

“This is a good group of girls that I like a lot,” Kreps says. “It’s also an interesting team in that we’ve had six games with a different leading scorer. We’re probably more well-rounded than in a long time.”

The veteran coach plays everybody, but rounds out his starting five with 5-9 guards Kayla McClain, Kreps’ best all-around defender, and Lexy McKee, a transfer student from Stevenson, and 5-9 forward Morgan Vasquez.

McClain and Vasquez, like Story, are in their third varsity seasons for CHS, and both McKee (second in assists and steals) and Vasquez (7 ppg, team-best 77% free-thrower) posted double-figure scoring games in December.

The second unit features forwards Lauren Thiesies, Aidan Liddiard, Michaela Enyart, and Mallory Doty; and guards Gisselle Garcia and Alyssa Trout.

“I have a team,” Kreps says with emphasis. “I have no league MVP, but my bench is not bad. The difference between number 1 and number 11 is not huge.”

With the resumption of Trico play, Kreps says the Bruins are focusing on their shooting and keeping practices sharp so they doesn’t lose their competitive edge.

“With that said, these girls have spent time in the gym during the off-season trying to get better,” Kreps notes.

The Bruins average about 70 shots per game, but only about 27% of them go in.

“If we just make four to six shots a game more, we could be very good,” Kreps says. “I think we can because we shoot our free throws at 60%.”

In the final issue, Kreps believes the Bruins have a strong shot at post-season play once again.

“We should be no less than third in league, then we go to district and see what happens,” Kreps says.

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