High School Sports

Tamia Braggs working on lasting legacy at Lincoln

Lincoln's Tamia Braggs, a Santa Clara commit and two-time 3A Narrows MVP. This for our girls basketball preview Thursday 12/17/15.
Lincoln's Tamia Braggs, a Santa Clara commit and two-time 3A Narrows MVP. This for our girls basketball preview Thursday 12/17/15. dkoepfler@thenewstribune.com

In the halls of Lincoln High School, Tamia Braggs is a legacy.

On the basketball court, she is creating one.

The setting for Braggs’ success is fitting for a student whose paternal grandparents and parents also attended Lincoln. Now, they come to watch her dazzle as the Lady Abes’ star forward.

“It’s really cool,” she said. “It’s a good experience just leading on that.”

But despite being the defending two-time 3A Narrows League most valuable player — who plans to play for an NCAA Division I program next year — Braggs says her strongest skill is as a motivator.

“I feel like the energy and the leadership I bring helps the girls to bring it all together and wrap it up,” said Braggs, who is headed to Santa Clara University next year after initially committing to the University of Arkansas.

Abes coach Jamila Jones said Braggs has been the key to Lincoln’s 6-0 start.

“We’ve surrounded her by a really good supporting cast, but we kind of let her just do her thing,” he said. “Not a lot of pressure — just let her be and write her own legacy.”

Jones called Braggs, who is averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds per game, a “double-double machine.”

“It’s no secret that she’s our go-to player,” he said. “So it’s not uncommon for her as she touches the ball to have three of the opposing color jerseys guarding her.”

Where Braggs has matured, Jones said, is trusting that if three defenders are guarding her, then a teammate has to be open.

Braggs admitted it can be frustrating when she is the main focus.

“I used to get in foul trouble — shut myself down,” she said. “I’ve learned to handle it better and keep going for my teammates.

“Everyone knows how I play, and I’m trying to get better at my game. But we play as a team.”

Senior point guard Aamira Turner said that watching Braggs’ development “has been phenomenal.” The two have been playing together since sixth grade.

“As a team, we feed off her energy,” she said. “When Tamia’s playing well, we’re all playing well.”

At 6-foot-2, Braggs is among the tallest on the court, but she said she expects a different scenario in college. The last Division I girls player to come out of Lincoln was San Antonio Stars forward Alex Montgomery, in 2006, whose performance at Georgia Tech made her a first-round pick in the 2011 WNBA draft.

“I’ve been used to being down low my whole life,” Braggs said. “The post is difficult. We bang up on each other, we go to get rebounds — it’s a very physical game.”

Braggs, who also plays for the AAU’s Northwest Magic, is considering a business major at Santa Clara, which she calls a perfect fit.

“I think that is one of my biggest regrets,” she said of the initial recruiting process. “Not taking it slowly.”

But first comes Braggs’ final run for a state title.

Lincoln is the only Tacoma public school to have played for a girls basketball championship, and that was in 1981 in a two-point loss to Garfield.

“We have emerged as a program that can play at a high level, and she is a big part of that,” Jones said.

While this is Braggs’ final season, her presence will continue to be felt.

“She’s leaving the right kind of legacy,” Jones said, “for girls to be Lady Abes basketball players.”

CLASS 4A

Team to watch

Even with guard Quinessa Caylao-Do transferring to Bellevue, Beamer gets the slight nod over Bellarmine Prep because of its returning experience. Senior guards Bria Rice (Colorado signee) and Nia Alexander (San Francisco) will continue to run the show, but expect the Titans to be more halfcourt-oriented featuring post players Makenzie Bond, Darion Brown and Makenna Woodfolk.

4A NARROWS

Fab Five

Guard — Sara Bowen, Timberline, 5-7, sr.: Dead-red shooter with a quick release, Bowen will have big scoring nights for Blazers.

Guard — Jayana Ervin, Bellarmine Prep, 5-9, sr.: Move to off guard should allow her to do what she does best — lockdown, flustering defense.

Guard — Jenna Randich, Olympia, 5-7, sr.: With young Bears group, she will need to do everything, especially high-scoring production.

Center/forward — Shalyse Smith, Bellarmine Prep, 6-1, so.: With Claire Martin graduated, Lions need her more in post where she can physically dominate.

Guard — Maddie Willett, Gig Harbor, 5-10, so.: Never in a rush, this smooth sophomore will make defenses pay if they give her even a little bit of space.

League prediction

1. Bellarmine Prep (23-4 last year), 2. South Kitsap (11-10), 3. Gig Harbor (12-11), 4. Olympia (18-8), 5. Timberline (15-11), 6. Yelm (6-14), 7. Stadium (5-15).

Mark the calendar

Feb. 4: Bellarmine Prep at South Kitsap, 7 p.m.

4A SPSL NORTH

Fab Five

Guard/Forward — Nia Alexander, Beamer, 5-9, sr.: Mostly playing now on the perimeter, she will handle the ball and shoot 3-pointers more often.

Forward — Aniston Denckla, Kentlake, 5-11, so.: Whether the basketball comes to her or not, reigning SPSL Northeast MVP always in good post position.

Guard — Rachel Paulsen, Tahoma, 5-7, sr.: With recent rash of injuries and defections, Bears point guard will need to score more now.

Guard — Bria Rice, Beamer, 5-8, sr.: Offensive pace might be slower, but 2015 All-Area MVP will still be asked to set it all up for state contenders.

Forward — Makenna Woodfolk, Beamer, 6-2, sr.: When it is all said and done, this “stretch” power forward might lead Titans in 3-point attempts.

SPSL Northeast prediction

1. Kentlake (20-7 last year), 2. Kentridge (17-8), 3. Tahoma (16-9), 4. Kent-Meridian (7-14), 5. Kentwood (3-17).

SPSL Northwest prediction

1. Todd Beamer (27-2 last year), 2. Jefferson (5-17), 3. Federal Way (9-13), 4. Mount Rainier (5-15), 5. Decatur (1-17).

Mark the calendar

Jan. 19: Beamer at Kentlake, 7:30 p.m.

4A SPSL SOUTH

Fab Five

Guard — Tianna Brown, Bethel, 5-9, so.: Selfish not part of SPSL South MVP’s game, but Braves need her to attack more, especially going to the rim.

Guard — Sophie DeWitt, Puyallup, 5-6, jr.: In a word — scrappy. Sees floor, controls action and shoots it pretty well for Vikings.

Guard — Jalaiya Frederick, Curtis, 5-3, so.: Might be short, but her long arms allow her to disrupt passing lanes and dominate in transition.

Center — Anna Matz, Curtis, 6-1, sr.: Division’s top post player is rugged rebounder, and facing up to shoot more mid-range jumpers.

Forward — Jessi Westering, Rogers, 5-11, jr.: Inside-outside dynamo leads upstart Rams with talented group of underclassmen.

League prediction

1. Curtis (20-8 last year), 2. Bethel (15-9), 3. Rogers (10-15), 4. Puyallup (11-12), 5. Emerald Ridge (12-15), 6. Graham-Kapowsin (5-15), 7. Spanaway Lake (4-16).

Mark the calendar

Jan. 22: Bethel at Curtis, 7 p.m.

CLASS 3A

Team to watch

Wilson lost last year’s All-Area player of the year, Kapri Morrow, to EWU, but coach Michelle Birge says this might be the deepest team she’s ever had — though Auburn Riverside is off to a scorching start, too. The Rams are led by Kiki Knox and Josie Matz, but complemented by a deep bench. Press-all-the-time team has reached state five consecutive years, but this could be year it makes deep run.

3A NARROWS

Fab Five

Guard — Kiki Knox, Wilson, 5-10, sr.: Four-year starter a tenacious rebounder, and already has two games with at least 10 steals this year.

Guard — Josie Matz, Wilson, 5-9, jr.: Watch her take the next step this year. Three-year starting point guard averaged 12.5 points, 4.9 assists last season.

Guard — Starr Rodenhurst, Central Kitsap, 5-7, sr.: Requires opponents’ best defender. Can take the defender off the dribble or knock down the open 3-pointer.

Forward — Tamia Braggs, Lincoln, 6-2, sr.: Santa Clara commit and two-time league MVP averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds per game last season.

Forward — Erica Hamlin, Wilson, 5-10, sr.: Runs the floor and tough rebounder. Scored 48 points combined against Shelton and Mount Tahoma.

League prediction

1. Wilson (21-6 last year), 2. Lincoln (14-8), 3. Central Kitsap (21-5), 4. Capital (4-18), 5. Shelton (3-17), 6. North Thurston (8-13), 7. Mount Tahoma (8-14), 8. Foss (0-18).

Mark the calendar

Feb. 3: Lincoln at Wilson, 7 p.m.

3A SPSL

Fab Five

Guard — Sam Engebretsen, Enumclaw, 5-8, sr.: Returning first-team all-league selection and team captain excels attacking the basket.

Guard — Joy Mahnken, Sumner, 5-5, jr.: Missed all of last season, but returns this year. High-IQ player and also a versatile scorer.

Guard — McKenzi Williams, Auburn Riverside, 5-3, jr.: Few defenders can keep Williams in front of them. Blazing guard will pressure ball for 32 minutes.

Guard — Brianna Zaragoza-Jones, Auburn Mountainview, 5-5, sr.: Makes up for height with explosiveness and ball-handling. Returning first-team all-league selection.

Guard — Mallory LaPoole, Lakes, 5-9, jr.: Long, athletic junior can be the most dominant in the league when healthy. Pullup jumper is deadly.

League prediction

1. Auburn Riverside (19-5), 2. Auburn Mountainview (9-11), 3. Bonney Lake (9-14), 4. Sumner (19-6), 5. Enumclaw (12-11), 6. Lakes (14-11), 7. Peninsula (3-17), 8. Auburn (3-16).

Mark the calendar

Jan. 19: Auburn Mountainview at Auburn Riverside, 7:30 p.m.

CLASS 2A

Team to watch

Kendall Bird and Darian Gore expect to face a lot of zone defense. The White River twin towers can take over in the paint, but the challenge will be how the Hornets step up as a team defensively after graduating its top two guards, including Amanda Lance, who is now at Western. Sophomore Georgia Lavinder has stepped up at point guard and senior Kayla Howard adds 3-point threat.

2A EVERGREEN

Fab Five

Guard — Madi Crews, Centralia, 5-7, sr.: Part of what could be the best guard combo in the league alongside Alyx Fast, who missed last two seasons with injuries.

Guard — Jessica McKay, W.F. West, 5-7, sr.: Julie Spencer is gone and former River Ridge and Centralia coach Tom Kelly is now at W.F. West. McKay is one of few seniors.

Guard — Sierra Snyder, Tumwater, 5-11, jr.: Experienced guard always a scoring threat. Was named to second-team all-league as a sophomore.

Guard — Kiara Steen, W.F. West, 5-3, so.: On team loaded with young talent, Steen capable of big scoring nights. Her and Julia Johnson make for solid sophomore backcourt.

Forward — Emma Duff, Black Hills, 6-0, jr.: Inside presence who averaged 11 points, seven rebounds per game and earned first-team all-league honors last year.

League prediction

1. W.F. West (23-4 last year), 2. Black Hills (17-9), 3. Tumwater (10-13), 4. Centralia (9-13).

Mark the calendar

Feb. 2: Black Hills at W.F. West, 7 p.m.

2A SPSL

Fab Five

Guard — Alexius Foster, Franklin Pierce, 5-10, jr.: Puyallup transfer scores in bunches. Tough around the basket, strong rebounder and can step beyond 3-point line.

Guard — Makenna Schultz, River Ridge, 5-3, sr.: Saint Martin’s signee has more than 1,000 points for career. Last year averaged 22 points, six assists, four steals.

Guard — Christina Willis, Fife, 5-2, so.: First-team all-league as a freshman last year, averaging 13.6 points, five assists, 4.5 steals.

Forward — Kendall Bird, White River, 6-2, jr.: Lefty arguably one of the top post players in the 2A level, will take lead role for Hornets this season.

Forward — Darian Gore, White River, 6-3, sr.: Humboldt State commit runs the floor, blocks shots and has nice touch on mid-range jump shot.

League prediction

1. White River (24-4 last year), 2. River Ridge (17-11), 3. Fife (16-8), 4. Franklin Pierce (14-10), 5. Washington (8-15), 6. Steilacoom (5-13), 7. Clover Park (7-13).

Mark the calendar

Jan. 22: White River at River Ridge, 7 p.m.

SMALL SCHOOLS

Team to watch

Evergreen Lutheran started the season with a first-place finish in the Martin Luther College Tip-off Tournament in Minnesota, with wins over West Lutheran of Minnesota and Nebraska Lutheran. The Eagles reached the 1B state tournament last season (going 0-2), but both Emily Holder and Katelyn Schwartz are back and both are averaging double-doubles to start the season.

Fab Five

Guard — Hailey Brandner, Cascade Christian, 5-7, jr.: Coach Scott Myers calls her an “absolute ballhawk.” Energy and tenacity changes games.

Guard — Majestic Moler, Charles Wright, 5-7, sr.: Quick and intense defender leads team in steals (4.5 per game), assists (3.8) and points (17.3).

Guard — Shoni Pritchett, Charles Wright, 5-8, sr.: Reigning 1A Nisqually league co-MVP averaged 21.2 points, 8.4 rebounds last year with 3-point range.

Forward — Courtney Youngblood, Life Christian, 6-0, sr.: Almost averaged a double-double last year and should contend for 2B Pacific most valuable player.

Forward — Emily Holder, Evergreen Lutheran, sr.: Returning top scorer on state squad from last year. Had 27 points, 19 rebounds in win over Nebraska Lutheran.

tcotterill@thenewstribune.com; tmilles@thenewstribune.com

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