Inglemoor select girls basketballers notch dream season
January 7, 2009 · Updated 11:16 AM
The performance of the Inglemoor sixth-grade girls select team this past season must make Inglemoor High head girls basketball coach John Augustavo pretty excited about the future of the program.
As one of the four grade-level feeder teams leading up to the high-school program, these select squads represent the varsity superstars of tomorrow.
Led by head coach Bill Cook and his assistant Dan Richards, the team recently went undefeated in tough Amateur Athletic Union league play with an 11-0 record, and won its first-ever event, the Winter Wolf Classic hosted by Eastlake High Dec. 29.
A balanced attack
To the coaches, the most surprising aspect of their squad is the lack of one player that handles the lion’s share of the scoring.
“We haven’t felt like we have a true superstar on that team, but everyone contributes pretty much every game,” Richards said. “That’s their most unique feature. We tend to have a different leading scorer at every game, and there’s not a lot of teams with that sort of balance.”
“The parents have commented on how they’ve noticed that (scoring) is spread out throughout the whole team,” added Cook. “It’s definitely a team effort.”
With a team loaded with so much talent and shooting ability, opposing teams have found it next to impossible to defend the Vikings. Cook always identifies one or two players to shut down before playing a game, but he believes that there’s no way the opposition will be able to do the same.
“We’ll just have another nine that will come at you,” he said.
Howling to first
If one statistic has been a thorn in the side of this very talented select team, it has been their performance in tournament championship games. Dating back to last year, the first season the team was together, the girls had made it to the finals of three events, and finished second all three times.
Going into the 2008 Winter Wolf Tournament at Eastlake, they were determined to change that.
“In most tournaments, the second-place finisher gets T-shirts, and last year we got T-shirts a lot,” Cook noted.
“Our driving force this year was to go for the sweatshirts. It was kind of a goal — they all wanted to win, but we all joked that if we got T-shirts again, we were going to burn them.”
Team confidence was brimming after the girls had just polished off a perfect season and a league championship. All players were injury-free and ready to go, but a devastating loss to Jackson in the final game of round-robin play threatened to derail the kids.
“They lost by one point in overtime — it could have been a crushing moment for them, because it was their third game in two days and they barely lost a hard-fought game,” Richards recalled. “I was fully prepared that they could fall apart at that point.”
The girls, however, battled back from adversity. They exacted revenge on Issaquah, who beat them in the finals last year at the same tournament, to earn a spot in the finals against Liberty. The Renton team unsuccessfully tried to slow down Inglemoor’s fast-paced attack, and the Vikings jumped out to an early lead and held on, eventually winning the championship, 28-17, for their first tournament victory.
“It was great to see them come together, and they looked excellent, they made very few mistakes in the championship game,” Cook said. “They could have beaten anybody in that game.”
Richards added that he was proud of the girls’ resiliency to recover from a difficult loss and play as well as they did down the home stretch.
Being a “feeder” team, one of the main jobs of the coaches is to prepare the girls, at a young age, for the rigors and pace of high-school-level basketball.
“We’ll try to run things that they run in high school, different offenses and defenses,” said Cook, the team’s first-year head coach. “By the time they get to high school, they don’t have to go over the basics. They’re ready to go.”
Perhaps even more significant is the team bonding aspect. Since the girls are all the same grade in school, they will always be on the same core team as they advance through the program. By the time they get to the varsity level at Inglemoor High, they will have played together for at least five years.
“It’s really cool to see these girls play together for that long,” said Richards, in his second year as assistant coach for the Vikings. “Having success at this age is a really fun thing to be able to build off of as they continue on up.”
Both Cook and Richards hope that their first tournament win will lead to many more victories for their talented team, but first and foremost they enjoy sharing their love of hoops with these incredible young women eager to improve and achieve the sport’s highest level.
“I enjoy the smiles you get from them. They truly enjoy what they’re doing ... they’re hungry to learn, and when you’re in a select program, they all want to be there,” said Cook about what he enjoys most about coaching. “(Basketball) is something they all have a love for, and a drive for.”