High School Sports

No funny business on Auburn Riverside’s basketball court — but a lot off of it

From left, Auburn Riverside’s Olivia Denton, Faith Turner and McKenzi Williams smile during practice Wednesday. Denton is a deadeye 3-point shooter, Turner is the 6-foot-3 rim protector and Williams is the 5-foot-6 Energizer Bunny of a point guard.
From left, Auburn Riverside’s Olivia Denton, Faith Turner and McKenzi Williams smile during practice Wednesday. Denton is a deadeye 3-point shooter, Turner is the 6-foot-3 rim protector and Williams is the 5-foot-6 Energizer Bunny of a point guard. lwong@thenewstribune.com

Enter the vicinity of Olivia Denton, Faith Turner and McKenzi Williams at your own peril.

Or at least be prepared for a lot of laughing.

On the Auburn Riverside High School basketball court, they are the core behind the Ravens’ back-to-back league titles and back-to-back state tournament appearances — last year in 3A, this year in 4A.

And off the court, O, Fay-Fay and Z — or Liv, Faity-wap and Zezus, they say you can take your pick of nicknames — are a nonstop riot.

Take the class that Denton and Williams had together last semester.

“Our teacher — she is just funny. She is just one of those funny teachers,” Denton said. “And we just sat in the back and …”

Denton and Williams burst into laughter.

“Our teacher could say something, we could read anything and we’d just be laughing,” Williams said, laughing. “We can literally make a joke about anything.”

“I would have just been laughing the whole time,” Turner said. “I would never get any work done.”

Confusing? Sure.

But their friendship and chemistry is what makes them so dangerous on a basketball court. They’ve been playing on the same team together since the summer after sixth grade.

They complement each other so perfectly. Williams is the 5-foot-6 Energizer Bunny of a point guard — and a two-time league MVP. Turner is the 6-foot-3 rim protector and a two-time first-team all-league selection, and Denton is a deadeye 3-point shooter with a deadly step-back jumper and the Ravens’ vocal leader.

“We play off each other’s strengths,” Williams said. “I’m not as good of a shooter, Liv makes up for that. I’m small and Faith is huge.”

Todd Beamer coach Corey Alexander after a game compared them to the Utah Jazz — which would make Williams the John Stockton of the team, Turner the Karl Malone and Denton the Jeff Hornacek.

Auburn Riverside coach Christian Miller laughed when he was told about that.

“Yeah! Or Denton is Byron Russell or something like that,” Miller said. “And Stockton and Malone played together forever, and so have Z and Faith. It makes it easier to run the pick and roll when you’ve known each other for so long.”

And it’s not just playing together a long time. They’ve logged even more hours hanging out with each other off the court. Williams said she’ll yell out of a window in her house to Denton’s.

“We like to bond. Team bonding,” Williams said.

“Team James Bonding,” Denton said.

“And we like to eat at my house,” Denton said. “Or Brooklyn’s house.” (Brooklyn Forte is a fellow senior.)

Turner sighed.

“We haven’t done that in a while,” Turner said.

“… We had team dinner just last night!” Williams exclaimed.

They all burst into laughter.

“Oh, yeah — I was sitting next to these two and almost spit my food out from laughing,” Turner said.

Williams and Denton have played varsity since they were freshmen, when they knew Miller as the junior varsity coach.

Miller played basketball at Auburn Riverside before graduating in 2005. This is his first season as the head varsity coach, but he spent the past three seasons as an assistant and he teaches drawing and graphic design at the school.

He’s had no problem fitting in on this team.

Miller, with a thick beard and slick haircut, arrives at morning practices with the energy of someone who drank six cups of coffee.

“He sometimes does this thing where he holds his left calf with his left hand and dribbles around with his right hand and calls himself Quasimodo,” Denton laughed.

“He’s the goofiest man in the world,” Williams said. “He’s just like us.”

Miller remembers that Turner was barely good enough to make the JV team as a freshman.

Since then she’s been the anchor of the three-time best defensive team in the Ravens’ league, and she averages in double figures offensively.

“The ball used to go right through her hands,” Denton said.

“She used to wear these googles and they would fog up. So she would fan her eyes and she thought it would make them less foggy.”

“It helped!” Turner said.

Denton continued: “Faith is the only person I know who can play defense and fix her goggles at the same time.”

They burst into laughter.

“Yeah,” Williams laughed. “At the same time!”

Turner now has contacts — probably because of Denton and Williams.

But they weren’t done with the Turner stories.

“Faith’s freshman year, C-Mill (coach Miller) told her to talk on defense,” Denton said. “She gets in the paint and she goes ‘Hey guys! Hi!’ 

More laughter.

“You guys are like a comedy duo,” Turner said. “I can’t eat next to you. I can’t drink next to you.”

And then more on Turner.

“The beginning of Faith’s laugh is so quiet,” Denton said. “It takes like 30 seconds before you start hearing it.”

“I’m laughing the whole time,” Turner said. “It just takes a second.”

“It’s like the sloth from ‘Zootopia’!” Williams said.

Another burst of laughter from the three of them.

And one more Turner story:

“We have a play we call rip and she has to fake like she’s going to set Z a screen, but she’s getting back screen set for her,” Williams said. “And C-Mill is like, “Faith, just walk over there and be like, ‘Hey, Z, I got you.’

“And every single time we run the play now, she literally turns around every time and says, ‘Hey, Z, I got you!’ 

More laughing ensued.

This is why Denton got goosebumps when asked about playing in the Tacoma Dome.

Because they don’t want the stories, the laughter and the season to end. Auburn Riverside (20-6) will play Kamiak in a loser-out game in the regional round of the 4A state tournament at 6 p.m. Friday at Rogers High School. The winner advances to play in the Tacoma Dome.

The Ravens were 23-0 last season. Then they lost in the district title game against Lincoln before their season came to a shocking end in the regional round against Edmonds-Woodway — one game shy of the Dome.

Miller said he’s watched the film of that game a few times this season.

“We just want to be mentally tough and be locked in so that the moment is not too big for us,” Miller said. “The vibe on the team is great — they are hungry, they are confident, but not overlooking anything.”

Williams, Turner and Denton said they have gone to the Dome every year to watch the state tournament.

They’d rather be playing in it this year.

“I want to be the people that people watch,” Turner said.

“I don’t want to worry about what I’m going to wear to watch the games at the Tacoma Dome,” Denton said. “I just want to be in my travel gear and my jersey and my sneakers.”

“Just thinking about it — oh, my gosh,” Williams said. “I just want to be looking in the crowd before the game and not really seeing anybody, but seeing all those people.”

And can you imagine all the laughing and celebrating this team could do after securing a spot in the Tacoma Dome?

“We can’t look past this weekend, though,” Denton said. “I’ve been saying to the team — just think about how active, how lit, the locker room is going to be if we win that game on Friday.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

@TJCotterill

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