These Rogers and Curtis high school girls basketball teams are at a crossroads with their teams heading into the 4A South Puget Sound League season’s final handful of games.
It’s been years in the making for Rogers as the Rams enter their final run with their core group of five seniors (Sophie Wicker, Avery Campbell, Ellie Hamel, Destiny Whaley and Maddy Glasoe) who have been together for the better part of the last four years.
On the other side is Curtis, who’s lone senior (Jalaiya Frederick) is trying to help a young Curtis team overcome hiccups that come with the age-level given significant minutes each night.
“The beginning of the game, we did not play as a team,” said Frederick after Rogers defeated Curtis, 54-45, after the Rams senior-laden team proved too much for the Vikings’ youth at South Hill on Thursday night.
“It was a rough loss. ... We got some talented girls on our team. We just got to believe in each other.”
But Curtis sophomore guard Kareyna Taylor (12 points, 3-for-11 FG, 7-for-9 FT), and the Vikings turned a 15-point deficit into single digits, 50-43, with 1 minute, nine seconds remaining in the game.
But Rogers held on from there to hand Curtis (9-4; 7-3 4A SPSL) its second consecutive 4A SPSL loss after falling to No. 6 Bellarmine Prep for the second time earlier in the week.
And that leaves Bellarmine (10-3; 9-0) in sole possession of first place, with Sumner (11-2; 8-2) currently holding the No. 2 seed ahead of Rogers (9-5; 7-3) and Curtis, which have now split their season series after Curtis won the first matchup, 50-43, on Dec. 10.
But the Rams seem to be surging. After dropping three of their first five games to start the year, Rogers has since won seven of its past nine games.
That’s thanks to some spark plugs in sophomores Raigan Barrett (21 points, 7-for-18 FG), Maddie Egan (13 points, 3-for-7 FG), Jazmyne Lillie (seven points) and Rachel Wicker (seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks).
But no players stood taller than two of Rogers core members in Sophie Wicker (13 rebounds, three blocks) and Campbell (five rebounds, three steals, two blocks) who made big blocks and steals in the final seconds to create chances to increase Rogers lead and pick up the Rams’ third consecutive win.
“We always had other teammates blocking out, making it easier for us to go and get the boards,” said Rachel Wicker, who combined with her sister for a combined total of 20 rebounds.
Having that experience of playing with each other, having all those minutes logged together on the court at practice, during summer camps and, especially, during the long months of the season, has paid off for these core group of girls.
But these seniors feel like there’s much left to prove.
“It’s really important (to get the seniors into the playoffs), and I think that we’re just getting the gist of it and I think we can make a big run,” Barrett said.
As Curtis coach Jackie Thomas and Rogers coach Amy Looker watched different endings for their team’s nights, there was a common buzz amongst both veteran coaches who have seen their team’s battle for years and know many more lie ahead.
“There were plenty of times where we had three sophomores, a junior and a senior on the floor, or three sophomores and two juniors on the floor,” Thomas said. “But that’s cool part about it. They’re young and they’re exciting – and I think they have room to grow … we need the strength of a team, and that’s what we talked about in the locker room. We need the strength of a team, and that’s what Rogers had.”
“Our defense was steady all game. The only time our defense let (us) down was our transitions,” Looker said. “But our half-court defense was great, we owned the boards, we did a great job holding them to one shot. I’m very proud of our team effort defensively.”
Curtis: Frederick 10, Taylor 12, Joseph 3, Upchurch 6, Lee, English 2, Davis 6, Matz 2.
Rogers: Barrett 21, S. Wicker 4, Hamel 5, Campbell 5, Egan 13, Lillie 7, R. Wicker, Steffen, Pettit.