Last season was a monumental one for the Bonney Lake High girls basketball team.
The Panthers closed out last season by winning nine out of their final 11 games, eventually hosting the program’s first playoff game.
The big question this season is whether or not they can keep that momentum going.
After starting the season with back-to-back nonleague losses — 65-34 to 4A SPSL Rogers on Nov. 29 and 45-37 to 4A NPSL Auburn Mountainview on Dec. 3 — the Panthers (1-2) are asking themselves the exact same thing entering their first league games against 3A PCL opponents Stadium (a 34-33 win Wednesday) and Wilson (1-0) on Friday.
Right now, we’re just trying to hit the reset button. We’re trying to put the past behind us and look to the future.
“Right now, we’re just trying to hit the reset button,” Payton Mitchell said. “We’re trying to put the past behind us and look to the future. We still have goals that we set, like making it back to the playoffs and hosting another game, and it’s still obtainable. We just have to work harder.”
Even though the Panthers graduated five of their key players from last season, there still are significant senior pieces left over in Mitchell, Shaya McQueen and Taryn Schelin.
All three will be relied on heavily as Bonney Lake matches its brand of basketball against some of the top schools in the Tacoma School District.
“We’re going to see here early how we match up with the schools from Tacoma,” Bonney Lake coach Dan Lisk said. “There are some pretty tough schools out there, so we’re going to have to play together, play stronger defense if we want to go head to head with the talent they have out there.”
Over the past four seasons, there has been at least one Tacoma school representative that reached the Tacoma Dome, with Lincoln (2014-2016) and Wilson (2013-2015) the prime representatives.
“It seems like there’s always a Tacoma school at the Dome,” McQueen said. “But I’ve played with most of those girls in AAU, so I know how they play. That will help when we are going against them.”
Defense will be Bonney Lake’s key to success, Lisk said, as the Panthers will have to find a way to shut down a league seemingly filled with some of the top talent in the state.
“The league is talented, but when we work together, we have to defense that can play with anyone,” Schelin said. “With Payton and Shaya sharing the responsibilities handling the ball, we should be right there with the Tacoma schools.”
Take the Panthers’ season-opening loss last week to Rogers, 65-32, where Bonney Lake did nearly everything it set out to do —mainly shut down the Rams’ frontcourt players.
The Panthers did just that, but a surprise performance from Rogers’ Raigan Barrett eliminated any of the positives the Panthers might have had from the game.
The league is talented, but when we work together, we have to defense that can play with anyone.
“We did what we wanted to do, which was take away their players in the post,” Lisk said. “We just couldn’t prepare for one guard who really took us by surprise.”
Surprises or not, Bonney Lake will need to be at its best each night if the Panthers hope to make it out of the 3A PCL.
So the questions begs to be asked again: Can the Panthers regain that momentum?
“It’s just like Payton said, we’re hitting the reset button,” Schelin said. “We’re going to put the past behind us and play how we expect to play.”