At 6-foot-2, they tower above much of the competition as star posts for White River’s girls basketball team. And that is where the similarities end between Darian Gore and Kendall Bird.
Yet, the duo’s complementary playing style has given the Hornets a lethal advantage as they head into the Class 2A state tournament for the 16th time in 18 years.
White River has won the South Puget Sound League and West Central District titles, and is chasing the big one after finishing fourth in the 2015 state tournament.
“I think we’re playing our best basketball at the right time,” said White River coach Chris Gibson. “(Bird and Gore) are a hard matchup for opponents because of their size.
“Versatile is the best way to describe them.”
Bird, a junior, said that in their three years together as varsity starters, she and Gore have nearly perfected their spacing on the court.
“We pretty much always know where we are together and can always get the ball to each other,” she said. “Most of the time, we can just pass it over the top of people’s heads.”
Gore, a senior, agrees.
“We know when to give it to each other and when we want the ball,” she said. “We’re on the same level when we’re playing.”
Whereas most teams only have two posts, Gore and Bird are two of four Hornets players in the rotation.
“It’s us against them, and we have the whole game to do our best to keep them under control,” Bird said.
Gibson said that having such tall players provides an automatic advantage.
“I’m blessed to have two kids of that size,” he said. “It’s not something you get very often and something we definitely want to take advantage of.”
Gore admitted that her playing style is “not conventional at all.”
“I never really look to score as much as I should,” she said. “How many points did you get? — that’s the first question you always get asked — but I think it’s much more than that.”
Bird, on the other hand, said she is drawn to the aggressive nature of playing post.
“I feel like you get to bang a little more than being a shooter or guard,” she said.
Both attributed White River’s success this year to the team’s familial bond.
“I feel like we’ve been good at seeing each other as a family, but this year we have progressed at our game,” Gore said, adding that the Hornets need to focus on rebounding and defense to be successful at state.
Gore has signed to play at Humboldt State University in California, where she plans to study marine biology. With a year of high school left, Bird isn’t sure where she wants to go, but she does hope to play collegiate basketball.
First things first, though.
Bird said that winning a state championship would be the perfect way to end the run for this team, most of which has played together since middle school.
“That’s all we’ve thought about — getting the seniors to Yakima,” she said of the state title game at the SunDome.
Gore said the prospect is both bittersweet and nerve-racking — but she’s ready.
“I really hope we can cut down a third net,” she said. “We did it at league; we did it at districts; now we want to do it at state.”