The Rogers High girls basketball team knows all about the expectations surrounding the program are this season.
Last season the Rams reached the the Class 4A state regionals. With that team is nearly intact after only graduating one player from the roster, there’s no denying what this Rogers squad is aiming for: an appearance at the Tacoma Dome.
“We’re more like a family this year, wanting to come out and make a statement early,” Jessi Westering said. “We’re just keeping our goals the same. We’re aiming for the Tacoma Dome and the top spot.”
And there was no better way to get a jump start on those lofty aspirations than Rogers’ 2-0 overall start, including the Rams’ first league win over Emerald Ridge on Friday. The Rams have outscored their opponents 125-66 so far, led by freshman Raigan Barrett and potential 4A SPSL league MVP favorite Jessi Westering.
The goal isn’t to get back (to regionals), it’s to go further. Treat it like a championship and we’ll get there.
“It feels different starting out with the win, especially after the way we started the season the past couple of years,” said Rogers coach Amy Looker, who is also the aunt of Barrett. “To be able to start off right just shows how much work they put in to not let those slip-ups happen early. They’re treating every game like it’s a championship. And you really have to do that if you want to reach the Tacoma Dome.”
There is a looming question about which is more scary for opponents: The fact the Rams have won by an average of 29.5 points or that Barrett, a freshman, has “looked like a junior (on the court),” according to Bonney Lake coach Dan Lisk.
“I’ve been around this team for a long time, so it’s strange actually playing for Rogers. But they make it easy to fit in,” Barrett said. “Even with the goals they already had from last year, and the success they had in getting to the playoffs, they personally helped make it easy for me to come on to the team.”
It’s not even the fact that Rogers was the only team in the 4A SPSL last year to have two players as first-team selections (Westering and Tristan Coltom).
Even with the goals they already had from last year, and the success they had in getting to the playoffs, they personally helped make it easy for me to come on to the team.
The underlying feeling among teams in their league is that this Rogers team might have learned some lessons from years past.
“We know what it was like to not start out the way we thought we should have. We didn’t want to experience that feeling again,” Coltom said.
“It’s about eliminating the mistakes that hurt us, because that’s what teams do when they want to win a championship,” Avery Campbell added. “The goal isn’t to get back (to regionals), it’s to go further. Treat it like a championship and we’ll get there.”
The team that reached the 4A regionals last year began 0-4 before picking up a win. The year prior, the Rams started out even worse, stumbling out of the gate to an 0-6 record.
That team finished the season in the 2015 district playoffs.
“It’s a bit different starting off with a win, but that’s credit to them in learning from their mistakes and not wanting to repeat them again,” Looker said. “The girls now know what it takes to close out games.”
Instead of making a mad dash to the end of the regular season where Rogers had to be perfect just to reach the postseason, the Rams have learned their lessons.
We get pumped up before games, and then settle down before going out and the way we intend to play. Everyone together with the goal of winning.
Every game from here on out is going to be a championship-level game.
“We really have come together as a team this year,” Ellie Hamel said. “We get pumped up before games, and then settle down before going out and the way we intend to play. Everyone together with the goal of winning. ”
And that’s a scary proposition — for both the SPSL and the 4A state field at large.