With the aptly named “Energizer Bunny” supercharging the offense, a pair of dominant post players patrolling the paint, and a first-year coach who matches her team’s intensity, it’s no wonder the Puyallup girls basketball team is near the top of the SPSL South Division standings.
The formula for this season’s success was on display Friday night in Federal Way, where the fourth-ranked Vikings secured their hold on second place in the division with a 56-46 victory over the Eagles.
Junior guard Braylie Jeffers
— aka the “Energizer Bunny” — poured in 17 points, and post players Marissa Miller (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Addison Picha (12 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) led the way for Puyallup, which improved to 12-1 in SPSL South play under coach Cherokee Ainslie.
“Most teams only have one post; we’re lucky to have two,” Miller said.
In a physical game, the Vikings looked like they would run away early. But Federal Way’s Mariyah Vongsaveng splashed a 3-pointer from half court to beat the halftime buzzer and cut Puyallup’s lead to 25-24, capping a quarter in which the Vikings turned the ball over 10 times.
“You could see a little bit of panic in our faces, but we all just looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, we just need to play our game,’ ” Jeffers said.
Puyallup (17-1 overall) hung tough and used its size to advantage inside to cling to a 37-34 lead through three quarters. Federal Way’s star guard Raven Benton — mercilessly hounded by a rotating trio of Puyallup guards all game — kept the Eagles close, nailing a 3-pointer with two minutes remaining to cut the lead to 49-44.
“We were expecting it to be physical, and I was proud of my girls because we didn’t mentally get out of it,” Ainslie said. “Our defense played well tonight and that’s what really contributed to it.”
Benton finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and six steals, but her effort couldn’t overcome a Puyallup team that got contributions across the roster on both ends of the floor, led by Jeffers’ mad dashes to the rim and an especially feisty defense (four steals).
“We have such good chemistry as a team,” said Jeffers, who was also given the nickname “Tigger” by her parents at a young age because she seemingly never stopped bouncing around. “There is no drama and nothing like that — we just like to get out there and play basketball.”
Despite handing first-place Beamer it’s only loss of the season, Federal Way (16-3, 12-3) couldn’t match Puyallup’s gamelong intensity.
“We were right there with Puyallup the majority of the game and then we kind of lost it,” Federal Way coach Joshua DeYoe said. “We lost our heads a little bit. Part of that is the inexperience of our girls.”
Both teams will get another shot at Beamer. Puyallup hosts the Titans on Tuesday, while Federal Way plays them next Friday.