Drive to Chehalis and watch the W.F. West High School girls basketball team play a game. Try to single out the team’s go-to player.
You won’t be able to.
“Exactly,” said Tom Kelly, who is in his second season coaching the Bearcats. “That’s right. I don’t know either.”
There is no “best player” on this W.F. West squad, Kelly said. The balanced Bearcats have several players averaging in double digits.
Julia Johnson is the statistical leader with 11.4 points per game, Shasta Lofgren averages 11.3, and Kiara Steen averages 10.2.
But, game-to-game, it’s anyone’s guess who will be the leading scorer.
“I think we just all want to win,” said senior Lexie Strasser, who is averaging 9.6 points per game since returning from an injury that kept her sidelined early on.
“I feel like nobody really cares, when it comes down to it, who scores as long as we’re doing good and winning the game.”
That seems to be the trend. With just over a week to play in the regular season, the sixth-ranked Bearcats (12-2, 4-1 Class 2A Evergreen Conference) have nearly passed the 1,000-point mark for the season.
“We have great chemistry together,” Johnson said.
W.F. West routed top-ranked White River, 71-38, on Monday. On Wednesday, W.F. West scored 42 points in the first quarter on its way to an 80-22 win over league rival Rochester.
That pushed the Bearcats’ season point total to 973, which is 69.5 per game.
“None of us are really selfish on the team,” said Steen, a junior. “We aren’t worried about how much we score. We all pass the ball well, and give other people opportunities to score.”
Steen said W.F. West’s volatile offense is at its best when the team is running and gunning in transition.
“When teams can’t keep up with us is when we do our best and score the most because we’re always running,” she said.
“We try to push it as much as we can,” Johnson said.
W.F. West has scored under 60 points in two games this season — in its only losses — against Camas, which is undefeated in the 4A Greater St. Helens League, and against Black Hills, the top-ranked 2A team in the state.
“Playing those teams, they’re going to expose something, and we can work on it going into the district tournament,” Kelly said.
When Black Hills hosted the Bearcats last week, the Wolves won decisively, forcing turnovers and missed shots, while Emma Duff had a career night at the other end of the floor.
What that did was give W.F. West’s players plenty to talk about while watching film in the school’s weight room last Friday, and plenty to work on.
“It’s good stuff if you learn from it and move on,” Kelly said. “You can’t dwell on it. … When you get on the bus, it’s over.
“There’s nothing we can do about it but work on it in practice and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
By Monday, W.F. West had regrouped enough to stampede White River, then the state’s top-ranked 2A team.
“I think, after the last game, it was kind of a wake-up call,” Strasser said following the win over White River. “We really needed to bring it together again and play with confidence, and I think that did it for us.”
W.F. West will play Black Hills again in Chehalis in its regular-season finale on Feb. 7. This Saturday, it will host Prairie, the fourth-ranked team in 3A.
W.F. West’s strength of schedule — which has helped the Bearcats reach No. 3 in the WIAA’s RPI rankings — contributes to its success.
“You make each other better,” Kelly said.
Kelly, who previously coached at Morton-White Pass, River Ridge and Centralia, has taken 10 teams to a state tournament during his career.
Every time, the team has come home with a trophy. He said that is the type of consistency he’s trying to build at W.F. West.
“That’s what you could have here, too,” he said.
The Bearcats narrowly missed a state regional berth a year ago in an overtime loss to Washougal.
The five years prior, the Bearcats placed at the state tournament, including a title win in 2014.
“In the offseason, it made me work really hard to want to go to state this year,” Steen said. “It’s a dream to be on the starting five and take it to state.”