Issaquah girls basketball team bolts out to 5-0 start

December 11, 2012

By John Leggett

Jozie Crisafulli, Issaquah junior forward, is double-fouled taking a shot during the first quarter by Garfield’s Aireonna Davis (right) and Cierra Levias. By Greg Farrar

The Issaquah High School girls basketball squad has compiled a 5-0 overall record in its first five contests and is the frontrunner in the Crown Division of the KingCo 4A.

In a sport that customarily requires possessing several inordinately tall girls on your roster, the Eagles don’t have a starter who is even 5 feet, 11 inches.

So how have they accomplished the unblemished record so far? Those who are wise to what’s what on the KingCo 4A girls basketball scene suspect that it is because, for the 15th season in a row, veteran coach Kathy Gibson is the master architect of the girls basketball program at IHS, and she knows how to build winners.

Last year’s version of the purple and gold girl hoopsters, despite the same dearth of any substantial height, missed the state tournament by one victory.

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“Oh, believe me, size matters in basketball,” Gibson said, “but over the years at Issaquah, we have developed a reputation for compensating for our lack of the giants that schools like Inglemoor almost always have, with our athleticism, aggressiveness and hustle. Also, by making sure that we knock down our open looks when the potential uncontested shots present themselves.”

Thus far, the Issaquah team has been steamrolling its competition. It beat Juanita in the season opener at the Eagles Nest, 63-56; topped Edmonds-Woodway, 62-55, on the road; and blew away both Roosevelt and Garfield in the 2012-13 season’s two initial Crown Division meetings — 44-26 against the Roughriders and 54-31 against the Bulldogs.

The Eagles flew deep behind enemy lines Dec. 7, when they took the long bus ride to Garfield High School, then emerged with their mission accomplished as they kept a short leash on the Bulldogs, spanking them by 23 points.

Issaquah’s offense was spearheaded by the scoring tandem of Mandie Hill and Aimee Brakken, who tabulated a combined total of 28 points, logging 16 and 12, respectively.

The Eagles led from start to finish, breaking the contest wide open in the third period, and electrifying the sizable throng of Issaquah fans who made the trip to watch their unbeaten girls when they outscored the home squad, 22-3, in that third frame.

Brakken pretty much set the tone when six seconds in, she drained a 3-pointer to inspire the Eagles.

“I wasn’t surprised that we were able to sink that handful of treys and have such a good shooting percentage from the floor,” Gibson said. “These girls can really shoot it, so whenever they are opened for the shot, they know they have the green light to fire away.

“Our focus, intensity and ability to take care of the basketball was a lot better in the second half,” she added. “I will be much happier, though, when I see this group put together a full four quarters of basketball.”

This year’s team is mostly 11th-graders, but some of the tallest girls on the club are senior and freshman players. Senior post Miranda Hansen is the only genuine 6-footer on this season’s squad. When she sunk a bucket in the fourth quarter, the entire Issaquah bench jumped to its feet yelling.

Hansen is joined by a pair of freshman who will most likely grow to be her size by their sophomore campaigns. While frosh forward Ellen MacNary is 5 feet 11, her freshman cohort, Hope Dahlquist, is 5 feet 10. There is also a twosome of juniors, Mackenzie Wieberg and Jozie Crisafulli, who are approaching the 6-foot range.

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