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By David Pan 

Glacier Peak undergoes a successful makeover | Girls basketball


Last updated 1/5/2018 at Noon

Glacier Peak is undergoing a significant makeover following its most successful season in school history.

The three players largely responsible for helping lead the Grizzlies to a second place finish at the 4A state girls basketball tournament – Paisley Johnson, Samantha Fatkin and Kayla Watkins – are all now playing Division I college ball.

An influx of new players brought some uncertainty to the returning varsity players.

“The first day of tryouts was a weird day. We weren’t sure how to act around each other or what to say or what they comprehended,” senior co-captain Nicole Jensen said. “Now it’s like we’re all best friends.”

Much more work remains, but Glacier Peak is off to a solid start in league with a 3-1 record in the Wesco 4A. The Grizzlies went 1-2 against some tough competition at a holiday tournament in Spokane over the holiday break.

“We’re getting better. That’s kind of been our whole thing is we’re not the same team from last year,” Glacier Peak coach Brian Hill said. “We just need to figure who we are this year. We’re putting in some new things and we’re trying some different looks here and different looks there defensively and offensively.”

Senior co-captain Abbie Juozapaitis was excited to hit the courts with her new teammates.

“We kind of meshed pretty quickly,” she said. “We didn’t need a whole lot of time to get used to each other.”

The Grizzlies have seven main players on varsity and swing up to four players from junior varsity. The seven are the top players in the program and likely are going to be getting the majority of playing time. Then assuming the Grizzlies advance to districts, which they have for the nine years the school has been open, Hill will bring up five players from the junior varsity squad.

“We’re pretty deep,” he said. “I think there’re about eight kids that can all play for one of those five spots.”

One of the seven varsity players is a totally new face and the only junior co-captain – Alexyss Newman, a transfer from Arizona.

“She leads by example. She works hard,” Hill said. “She isn’t afraid to say something when she needs to say something.”

Freshman Aaliyah Collins is another new player, who Hill said is doing a good job fitting in with the team.

“It’s tough for a freshman to come in and get a lot of playing time,” he said.

All seven main varsity players are seeing plenty of action. In a 42-41 loss to crosstown rival Snohomish on Tuesday, Dec. 19, Hill said that all seven played well. Two starters were on the bench in the waning moments of the game and Hill turned to one of his assistants and said they needed to make a substitution.

“We didn’t know what to do because everybody was doing well,” Hill said. “I think all seven of them are jelling really well together.”

Given the turnover in the startling lineup, some people may think that the Grizzlies are in a rebuilding mode.

“I feel a little less pressure because last year we kind of had a target on our backs,” Jensen said.

But the expectations haven’t really changed for Juozapaitis and her teammates.

“I don’t think we have less expectations than last year,” she said. “We still want to make it to the (Tacoma) Dome.”

Hill is focused on the end goal and doing what’s needed to get there.

Glacier Peak has won the district title three times (2011, 2014, 2017) and was the runner-up three times (2012, 2013, 2016). The Grizzlies have advanced to the regional round of state in six out of the last seven years and made it to the Tacoma Dome three times (2011, 2013, 2017).

“I think we’re taking steps in the right direction to where we want to be by the end of the season,” Hill said. “That’s kind of the ultimate goal this year. Wins and losses don’t matter, but where we are at by the end of the season does. Hopefully, we’re finding ourselves in the district tournament.”


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