It took Jane Allyn Norris some time to learn all of coach Chris Gibson’s offensive and defensive sets and to fit into White River High School’s style of play.
“He runs a tight ship,” Norris laughed. “A very tight ship.”
But it didn’t take her any time, she said, to feel she belonged after transferring from Sumner to the 2A school in Buckley.
Norris scored 18 points, hitting four 3-pointers, and had five assists in the top-ranked Hornets’ 61-40 road victory against Franklin Pierce on Wednesday to take a big step toward clinching its third consecutive league title.
Though White River (12-1, 8-0 2A SPSL Mountain) is hoping this year ends with a different kind of title — one obtained only in the state tournament in the Yakima SunDome.
“Coming into this program, I knew this was going to be a state championship team,” Norris said. “I’ve seen how (Gibson) coaches us and just our chemistry.
“It would mean the absolute world to get there. It’s been my dream to get that state sweatshirt.”
Norris fills White River’s need for a pure point guard. It has the size with 6-foot-2 University of San Diego signee Kendall Bird stuffing the stat sheet every night, and a pair of knock-down 3-point shooters in twins Georgia and Sofia Lavinder.
Coming into this program, I knew this was going to be a state championship team.
White River point guard, a transfer from Sumner
The last time these teams met, Bird had 31 points in the second half to finish with 40 points and 21 rebounds in a 66-56 victory on Dec. 13.
But on Wednesday, Bird — who is averaging 24.1 points, 12.3 rebounds per game — was limited to seven points entering the final quarter.
So Norris took over.
Franklin Pierce tied the game at 32-32 late in the third quarter before Norris drilled a 3-pointer. Then she set up a 3 for her younger sister, Lee Audrey Norris, opened the fourth with another 3-pointer and found Georgia Lavinder for one more.
It was part of a 15-0 White River run — all with Bird on the bench.
“When their shooters are hitting, we can’t go and double Kendall Bird — and then we don’t double Bird and she goes off,” Franklin Pierce coach Marcus Disney said. “You got to pick your poison, honestly.
“That’s why, I think, that’s the best team in 2A.”
Even on a night where the basket seemed to have a personal vendetta against Bird, she still finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. She made 7 of 20 shots.
“There hasn’t been many times this year when Kendall is not making her shots,” Gibson said. “The nice thing is, I really appreciate that they don’t care who scores.
“And those 3s tonight — those are the kinds of shots we have to hit if we want to go deep into the postseason. We want to have that balanced attack.”
Franklin Pierce (9-6, 7-2) hung in this game by playing aggressive defense, forcing White River to turn the ball over 12 times in the first half. Ghane Buze scored a team-high 17 points, and Alexius Foster had 15 points and nine rebounds.
They combined to make 13 of Franklin Pierce’s 15 field goals, as the Cardinals made 23 percent (15 of 64) of their shots.
“They are just athletic and they rebound the ball well, and they got two kids who can flat shoot it,” Gibson said. “I thought we did a really nice job defensively.”
Georgia Lavinder was White River’s primary ball-handler last season. But with Norris, that has allowed her and Sofia to thrive as spot-up shooters.
Georgia hit four 3-pointers on Wednesday, finishing with 12 points. White River made as many 3-point shots (11) as it did 2-point shots.
Much of that was set up by Norris.
“She’s got speed and quickness, and she’s heady and aggressive, and she loves basketball,” Gibson said. “She is somebody who came in here and had to learn an all-new system and all the weird plays I got.
“But she’s a competitive kid, and she wants to win.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
NO. 1 WHITE RIVER
WR: Lee Audrey Norris 5, Jane Allyn Norris 18, Lucy Rasmussen 2, Georgia Lavinder 12, Lily Tranquillo 3, Kendall Bird 18, Sofia Lavinder 3.
FP: Ghane Buze 17, Kaylee Meach 2, Ashleigh Maynard 4, Jasmyne Sims 2, Alexius Foster 15.