It would be easy to dismiss a program with no seniors as too young to compete.
Just try and tell the girls basketball players at Curtis High School that. In a flash they will steal, shoot and score away any doubts.
Led by a nucleus of underclassmen, the Vikings are poised to make a strong showing in a perennially solid Class 4A South Puget Sound League. They are off to a 2-0 start in league play (3-1 overall).
“Some teams doubt us,” sophomore point guard Peightyn Perrien said. “They say, ‘They’re really young’ — but I think it will be an eye-opener to see how good we actually are and how far we have come as a team.”
Coach Jackie Thomas, who played point guard herself for Curtis from 2001-04, said what her team lacks in age, it makes up for in intelligence and talent.
“There’s times when you can tell we’re young, but they don’t necessarily carry themselves as a young team,” she said.
Anchoring the group of six returners is Perrien, whose progression and maturity will be key in how well the Vikings do.
“Her court vision is just outstanding,” Thomas said. “Her ability to control her floor and her defense are solid.”
Thomas said the Vikings also benefit from sophomore guard Kaelin Williams-Kennedy’s high basketball IQ, which means that “things are going to happen” when she has the ball.
“My coaches have taught me a lot of good things,” Williams-Kennedy said. “Any time I have had any type of training, I’ve embraced it and soaked all of it in.”
Both are among several Curtis players on the roster of the Young Educated Athletes (Y.E.A) AAU team of Federal Way.
“We really are compatible with each other,” said junior Anna Matz, who plays the post for both teams. “We know each other’s strengths and we like to magnify that.”
Matz said that despite not having any seniors, “I think we’ve got it figured out by ourselves pretty well.”
In any given season, the Vikings are often mentioned in the race for the postseason — but it’s usually the ones from Puyallup High School. This season, that is changing.
“It’s exciting,” Thomas said. “We’re starting to get some respect.”
Thomas said a year ago, the group looked like deer in the headlights during their first varsity game at Bethel.
Now those six returners are “a year older, a year hungrier and they got a little taste of success and they want to keep it going.”
Matz said that strong chemistry developed over the years translates well on the court.
“Our team is really prepared,” she said. “We've been working together for a really long time.”
Thomas said that if her players focus on discipline and details, they will go far. Curtis’ last appearance in the state tournament was 2004, but the program has never placed.
“They have to just go and play and not be so worried that we’ve got to get to state,” she said. “If you play one game at a time and as hard as you can, the chips will fall where they fall.
“I’m confident. When they do their best, they’re a very good basketball team.”