Commonplace elsewhere in the 1A Nisqually League, basketball blowout victories aren’t usually celebrated at Charles Wright Academy.
In recent seasons, the Tarriers have been known as the gritty grinders of the league, relying on long possessions and shut-down defense — and settling for low-scoring victories.
But this season is different. Charles Wright Academy has marked scoring firepower on the boys and girls squads.
The early returns are promising. The boys are averaging 64.5 points a game and the girls 50.0. Both teams are considered league contenders.
“I think it’s great that Charles Wright has emerged as a contender,” Tarriers girls coach Kate Rue said. “And we want to stay there.”
The girls are led by senior Vanessa Davis in the post and sophomore guard Shoni Pritchett. Davis and Pritchett, who combine for an average of 35 points a game, garnered 1A Nisqually first-team selections last season.
Junior shooting guard Cooper Griffin is the boys’ stealthiest weapon despite being only 5-foot-9. Last year, he was a league honorable mention — and 3 inches shorter.
“I wouldn’t be the first guy they’d expect to have to stop,” said Griffin, who is averaging 21.5 points a game this season. “But defenders get lost on me because I can get through tight spaces and they can’t, so I can get an open shot.”
In Charles Wright’s 64-58 non-conference win against Franklin Pierce last week, Griffin scored 35 points — 20 of them in the third quarter.
“It’s fun to watch,” Tarriers boys coach Tyler Francis said. “There’s teams who have a scorer and he’s 6-4 or 6-5 — and here’s Cooper, at 5-9, and the game plan is to stop him.”
Still, Griffin said, he’s a work in progress — at least vertically.
“I’m not a big guy, so I’ve got to find a way to get a shot up,” Griffin said. “It makes it a lot easier if I get some height.”
Rue said having the dual scoring threat of the 6-foot Davis and 5-9 Pritchett means the team can focus on details.
“We’re trying to take advantage of our advantages,” Rue said. “And we have player personnel that is an advantage.
“Shoni is a coach’s dream because she can do a little bit of everything ... and Vanessa has had a career of getting better each year and making a name for herself in the league.”
Despite averaging 20 points a game, Davis said she doesn’t keep track of numbers.
“It would get too busy in my head,” she said. “I just focus on defense if I’m not doing well on shooting. I don’t think I score that much.”
But she does — and opponents know it.
“I like kind of how people are kind of scared of me,” Davis said with a laugh. “That’s a new feeling.”
Pritchett, who averages 15 points a game — and might have as high a scoring ceiling as there is in the league — said that having a tryout with the United States U-16 national team last year helped her sharpen her focus.
“That was a new experience for me,” Pritchett said. “It was a marking point — it helped me a lot to see where I was.”
CLASS 1A PREVIEW
NISQUALLY 1A BOYS
Crystal Ball (2012-13 records)
1. Vashon Island (13-7)
2. Cedar Park Christian (22-3)
3. Charles Wright Academy (12-8)
4. Cascade Christian (15-7)
5. Life Christian Academy (1-19)
6. Seattle Christian (11-10)
7. Eatonville (16-7)
8. Bellevue Christian (5-15)
9. Chimacum (3-17)
G Trey Drechsel, 6-5. sr., Cedar Park Christian
- Reigning Nisqually MVP scary matchup because of combination of size, skill.
G Cooper Griffin, 5-9. jr., Charles Wright
- Guard him at 20 feet, he’ll shoot from 25; fantastic outside shooter.
F Cody Miller, 6-4. sr., Seattle Christian
- Pure scorer, tallied a school-record 46 points against Life Christian last season.
G Jessie Norton, 6-3. jr., Vashon Island
- Add defense and leadership, easily Nisqually’s most complete player.
G Jordan Tveter, 6-3. jr., Cascade Christian
- Not a top-flight scorer, but when it comes to defense, nobody is better.
Circle the Calendar: Feb. 7. Vashon Island at Cedar Park Christian, 5:15 p.m.
NISQUALLY 1A GIRLS
Crystal Ball (2012-13 records)
1. Cascade Christian (22-3)
2. Charles Wright Academy (13-9)
3. Eatonville (17-4)
4. Cedar Park Christian (7-12)
5. Bellevue Christian (13-9)
6. Seattle Christian (9-12)
7. Life Christian Academy (6-13)
8. Vashon Island (7-15)
9. Chimacum (1-18)
C Vanessa Davis, 6-0, sr., Charles Wright Academy
- University of Rochester (N.Y.) signee is double-double guarantee.
C Laura Goodnight, 6-0, sr., Cedar Park Christian
- It has taken two seasons to adjust to being top option; now ready to blossom.
G Aly Kaler, 5-9, sr., Seattle Christian
- Despite slight build, does a lot of dirty work; also a top perimeter shooter.
F Katie Rozumny, 5-7, sr., Cascade Christian
- Moved off point guard so she can do what she is best at – lots of scoring.
G Kaelyn Voss, 5-5. sr., Eatonville
- A distributor last year, league’s best player will score more in 2012-13.
Circle the Calendar: Feb. 4. Charles Wright Academy at Cascade Christian, 6 p.m.