With one of Emerald Ridge High coach Pat Mullen’s most experienced rosters, the Jaguars are primed to use to their hot start to prove they belong in the conversation as one of the 4A SPSL’s top teams.
A roster with 10 seniors led by Jason Cassens, Daniel Gregory, Chase McGuire and Andrew Boston, Emerald Ridge has jumped out to a 3-0 start following its 76-57 home victory over South Kitsap (0-3, 0-2) on Saturday.
“To start the season with league games and to get better over the course of the games, it’s looking good for us,” said Cassens, who has averaged 21 points per game through the Jaguars’ first three games of the season. “We have 10 seniors this year, and a lot of those guys have spent three years on varsity, and this is our last year playing high school basketball. We have a good team, and we want to be in the run for a league championship.”
Maintaining momentum has been the key for Mullen, the WIBCA Hall of Fame coach, as he knows having a bye can break up any team’s rhythm —especially the one that has Emerald Ridge off to a great start.
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We have 10 seniors this year, and a lot of those guys have spent three years on varsity, and this is our last year playing high school basketball. We have a good team, and we want to be in the run for a league championship.
“Right now I think the guys are kind of tired of practices — the coaches are tired of practices, too, because we all want to play these games,” said Mullen after Saturday’s win over South Kitsap.
With the recent weather conditions, the Dec. 8 game between Emerald Ridge and Olympia was postponed, and with Friday’s bye, the Jaguars will essentially have two consecutive bye weeks.
So can Emerald Ridge keep up the momentum going forward?
“We have to pick each other up and find ways to get all five guys involved,” said McGuire, who shared the team lead in scoring with Cassens as both scored 21 points apiece in Saturday’s win. “We’ve been playing together a long time, and we know what it expected out of us at this point.”
We have to pick each other up, and find ways to get all five guys involved.
With state favorite and No. 5-ranked Curtis (3-0) within the 4A SPSL, a league title might be a long shot for Emerald Ridge, but this is the same team that took it to the Vikings of University Place. Last year, ER lost both games to Curtis, but the change from game-to-game was significant as the Jaguars only fell to the defending league champions, 74-70, to close out the regular season.
“I think the top five teams in the rankings are all the best teams in the state,” Mullen said. “Those are the teams to beat. After that, it can be interchanged, but they got it right with the top five teams. Curtis is going to be tough.”
Opening the season with a 56-38 win over Rogers (1-3) and a 56-43 win over Puyallup (1-1), the Jaguars have toppled their top rivals already, even if the awkward scheduling has them opening up with their city rivals, something that ER is not accustomed to at this point in the season.
It’s a tough league, but we’re 10 seniors strong and we’re ready for what the league will bring each night.
“It doesn’t matter when we play them, to be able to beat both Rogers and Puyallup means a lot to us,” said Gregory, who is averaging 12 points per game. “We look forward to those games.”
But it’s more than those games against Rogers and Puyallup that ER will need to be ready for, Gregory added, as the entire 4A SPSL will be a battle all season long.
“It’s a tough league, but we’re 10 seniors strong and we’re ready for what the league will bring each night,” Gregory said.
That experience has the Jaguars feeling good about their chances to stay among the top teams of the league.