Achieving heights never before reached in school history, the Yakama Tribal’s girls basketball team is feeling pretty good about themselves.
But not completely satisfied.
While the Eagles have notched the program’s first-ever state tournament appearance, they also know there’s still plenty to play for when the Class 1B girls state tournament begins Thursday.
“This is another level,” Yakama Tribal coach Sharon Johnson said. “We need to step up our play.”
Yakama Tribal (13-6) makes its state-tournament debut, fittingly, in the first game of this year’s event, facing Pateros at 9 a.m. in the Spokane Arena.
Although Johnson said she doesn’t know much about Pateros, she’s plenty familiar with her own squad, which, she said, showed this potential from the earliest days of practice.
“I was familiar with most of these girls (before practices began) and we’ve really clicked together,” the first-year coach said. “I knew they were a good team (then) and we’ve just kept moving forward.”
It didn’t hurt that Lynndell and Athena Wapsheli, the team’s top scorers at 16.4 and 13.9 points per game, respectively, transferred to the school before the season, but that’s been just one, albeit crucial, piece to this puzzle.
Johnson still needed to mold that potential into a cohesive, winning unit. That season-long work in progress has been accomplished because the players were willing to put in the work and put the team first, she said.
“I got these girls to play more as a team,” she said. “They learned from their mistakes. We’ve had our ups and downs but we’ve fixed the things we needed to as the season went on and that’s made us more of a team.”
That showed in last Friday’s 41-34 regional championship victory over Republic, in which the Eagles stuck to their game plan, including their pressure defense, despite being in foul trouble much of the second half.
Now, they’re eager to prove they belong in Spokane.
“A lot of people are proud of these girls,” Johnson said, “and we want to represent our tribe and school well.”