Puyallup High girls basketball and the run-and-gun style of play have gone hand in hand for years, where a smaller Vikings roster has had to figure out ways to win by playing at a faster pace.
Although the style of play led to some success, it was not the desired approach for coach Cherokee Ainslie.
It is different, but it’s a good thing for us. We’re more balanced and that should help us during the season.
“We’re finally finding some balance after having to play a smaller team where we had to rely on our speed and creativity more,” Ainslie said. “Now we have some balance, where there’s going to be chances low in the post that will help our outside shots.”
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And there was no better example of Puyallup’s (1-1) new style than its 57-55 4A SPSL league win over Sumner (0-1) on Friday, where the forwards — mainly senior post Madison Salisbury — led the way.
“We had a lot of good team defense and a lot of good team offense,” said Salisbury of Puyallup’s win. “That’s what I loved about it — we played like a complete team.”
Salisbury led the Vikings with a team-high 14 points, and she added six rebounds, four blocks and a steal in the win.
We’re finally finding some balance after having to play a smaller team where we had to rely on our speed and creativity more.
Puyallup coach Cherokee Ainslie
Time and again, Salisbury used her 6-foot-1 frame to her advantage as she easily set up herself up with short jumpers or one-handed shots from the post.
And when she was double-teamed, Salisbury had the ability to kick it back out to guards Sophie DeWitt or Grace Marvin.
“The fact that we’re balanced and we can go deep (into the bench) — that’s going to help in the future,” Aisnlie said. “We’re also senior heavy so the young players can rely on those players. So when we get in those tough situations, we can trust their teammates.”
Salisbury is not alone in the post as fellow starter Eva Edmonds (5-foot-10) has added height to the Vikings roster, as well as players on the bench in Chloe Chilchott (5-foot-9), Bailey Huber (5-foot-10) and Rachael Allen (6-foot-1).
We have so many girls who can go up for the rebound, and as long as we play together and do what we need to do, we can stop any team from scoring around the rim.
These five players now have turned Puyallup from a dish-and-dash type of team to one that can outrebound, outmuscle and completely shut down the action in the paint.
“They can’t just double-up on Madison or me,” Edmonds said. “We have so many girls who can go up for the rebound, and as long as we play together and do what we need to do, we can stop any team from scoring around the rim.”
As Puyallup outrebounded Sumner on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, it was a sign of things changing.
With the Vikings entering what is sure to be their toughest division to date (the 4A SPSL), having Salisbury and company down in the post might be what Puyallup needs to be a surprise a few critics.
After all, only Bellarmine Prep and Rogers have the ability to go toe-to-toe with Puyallup, giving the Vikings a decided advantage each time their step on the court.
“It is different, but it’s a good thing for us,” Salisbury said. “We’re more balanced and that should help us during the season.”