When the Sumner High girls basketball team needs a boost, it calls on senior guard Joy Mahnken.
She’s that rare player on the team — the go-to player that no matter what she’ll find a way to pull the team out of any predicament.
“Everyone feeds off of each other because everyone has a different personality, a different character,” Mahnken said. “Especially with the upperclassmen because we are very potent in keeping that Spartan way going all season long.”
She’s leads this team by how she plays on the court, and she’s always trying to be positive when we make mistakes. Everyone on the team loves her.
If you could gauge clutch as an inherent skill, it would be like a sixth sense for Mahnken, who nearly rallied Sumner in the Spartans’ 4A SPSL opener Dec. 2 against Puyallup.
“She’s really the heart of this team,” senior Kennedy Cutter said. “She’s leads this team by how she plays on the court, and she’s always trying to be positive when we make mistakes. Everyone on the team loves her.”
And no player wears their Sumner basketball pride than Mahnken, and especially in a season where there’s perhaps more expectations than ever.
“This league is full of competition, and it’s full of competitive teams,” Mahnken said. “It’s going to be a battle, but teams are going have to begin preparing for us. Our chemistry is getting there.”
With the gravity of what Sumner coach Jordan Moog wants from her senior guard, especially while incorporating freshman Callie Stevens at point guard — a position that Mahnken has held a share of for the last two years — games like Dec. 2’s 20-point performance will be crucial to Sumner’s success.
“She’s going to be our top offensive player that we will rely on in close games,” Moog said. “She still has some work on the defensive end of the court, but she’s worked hard all offseason in relying on her teammates to help her.”
Sumner has the talent with Cutter on the outside, along with Kaitlyn Clark and Kelsey Bell at forward, there’s a lot of options for the Spartan offense.
“It’s pretty (nerve-wracking) coming in as a freshman because you’re taking the spot of someone,” Stevens said. “Joy’s a big part of our team. She’s a great person, a great leader. She comes into practice everyday pushing us to get better.”
But there’s something different about Mahnken that elevates the team.
Joy’s a big part of our team. She’s a great person, a great leader. She comes into practice everyday pushing us to get better.
If she isn’t putting games away with jump shots or hard drives to the rim, she’s coming off a screen to make the 3-point shot look easy.
All the while never afraid to create contact, because she’ll beat opponents from the free throw line, too.
“(Joy’s) been a great leader and we depend on her offensively,” Clark said.
As Sumner mounted its comeback against Puyallup earlier this month, it was the Spartans’ senior guard carrying the team, doing whatever she could to pull her team back within the game.
Trailing the Vikings by two points with seconds left to play, there was no doubt that Mahnken was going to be the one taking the shot.
“Last year she made a shot from a similar location at the buzzer,” said Moog of Mahnken’s final 3-point attempt which bounced off the back of the rim as time expired. “That miss is what it is, and I have no problem in entrusting Joy to make that shot the next time.”