MACLEOD PAPPIDAS | THE DAILY WORLD
Montesano’s Mackinzie Malizia, left, and Justine Nuckols spar under the rim during practice last week.
MONTESANO — Over the past couple of seasons, the Montesano girls basketball program has progressed as far as its veteran players have taken them, including a district berth last year.
This year, three returning starters will be the Bulldogs’ centerpiece players and will be surrounded by young teammates who’ll learn on the court as the season progresses.
On Friday, Montesano (5-9, 9-14 last season) will host North Beach in its season-opening game at Bo Griffith Memorial Gym.
“The three returning starters are all great leaders and will bring the newcomers along,” Montesano head coach Julie Graves said. “The younger kids are getting better every practice, and I expect them to continue to improve throughout the season.”
The three main players on the squad this season are sophomore point guard Megan Choate, senior post Mackinzie Malizia and senior guard Justine Nuckols. The trio will be called upon to lead the team in scoring, which has been a negative with the Bulldogs in the past. Malizia leads the returners with a 7.8 point per game average, with Choate and Nuckols each adding 6.7 ppg averages.
“Depth is a concern and it’ll come down to how well the younger girls can develop and help out,” Graves said. “We have three very experienced players coming back, with Choate running the show. She’s just a sophomore, but came on very strong offensively by the end of the season. Mackinzie and Justine are both three-year starters.”
Sophomore post Andrea Ostwald, at 5-foot-10, will be the team’s tallest player and fellow sophomore Myranda Floch will supply athleticism as a guard/wing. Freshmen Cortney Miller (wing/post), Kasie Kloempken (guard) and Tianna Schurr (guard) will also see plenty of time on the court and will be called upon to move up quickly.
“We’ve always been decent on defense and the freshmen will have to learn how to play defense,” Graves said. “It is a big difference between eighth-grade basketball and varsity high school basketball. Our problem year after year is putting the ball in the basket. We have to start being able to finish shots, free throws and layups. It is a whole new team, with those three leading. (The new players) have to learn and learn quickly.”
Senior Bobbi Fry, who led the team in scoring last season, will not return to the squad this season.
In the Evergreen 1A, Graves sees the league as more balanced than in years past, but also down as well.
“Elma is still the team to beat, but on any given night, any team can beat any other team,” Graves said.
Assisting Graves this season will be veteran coach Debbie Gibson at the junior varsity level.