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  • Tuesday, November 20, 2018 12:40 PM | Amy Turner (Administrator)

    New era for Cedarcrest boys’ hoops as team aims to contend in new Wesco environment

    Posted on November 20, 2018 by Rhett Workman

    EDITOR’S NOTE: We continue our SVSJ winter high school sports preview series, with a look this morning at Cedarcrst High School’s boys’ basketball program, entering a new era this season in more ways than one. We are planning a visit today to Mount Si High School to gather information for our boys and girls’ basketball previews, as well as their gymnastics program. Look for those previews the rest of this week, along with Cedarcrest, and hopefully, Mount Si, wrestling. All on deck the rest of the week as you eat turkey, enjoy some pigskin and pump dollars into our local economies as you get your holiday shopping into full swing. So make us a regular stop as you cruise the ‘net this week!

    The Cedarcrest High School boys’ basketball program saw a lot of change in the offseason. Not only did the program change leagues along with the rest of the sports teams at CHS, but the Red Wolve boys welcome in a new head coach.

    Out after last season is longtime head man Mark Prince, and replacing him for this coming season is his longtime assistant, Joe Ayers. And he expects to have a competitive season in the first go-round. The team finished 7-14 overall and 7-5 in Cascade play last season, falling in the first round of the Northwest District playoffs. Several players from last season’s team return, led by senior Brennan LeBlanc. Ayers is excited about what LeBlanc can bring to the table. “LeBlanc is going to be a strong guard for us this year and has deep range from the 3pt. line. What I like about LeBlanc is his work ethic, competitive spirit and attention to the smallest details,” he told us by email.

    Fellow senior Chris Busch was a second-team All-Cascade player last season, and Ayers is expecting more this season. “We also expect him to have a strong year at the guard position. He has been working hard in practice to be a great leader,” the coach told us. “(He) has really been working hard in practice to improve his defense and leadership. He has proven to be one of the top guards in the Cascade Conference and we are excited to see that translate over to his senior year in the Wesco were they have some really strong guards.”

    Other seniors on the team this fall include Lance Stupfel, Emmett Turner and Bryce Hefner. Hefner’s no stranger to the program, having been part of it in the past but decided to take the year off last season. “Bryce is a very athletic stretch-four type of player. (He) is working his way back into the mix as a senior. He has a lot of potential for growth this year,” Ayers told us.

    Juniors Dawson Cairns and Shawn Deming lead the newcomer group. Ayers really expects Deming to be a big key to the overall success of the team this season. “Shawn Deming can really be a difference maker for us. His ability to get his hand on the ball on the defensive side of the ball really disrupts what our opponents are trying to do offensively. He is a high energy player that can get us going,” Ayers said. As for Cairns, the coach wants fans to pay attention to what he brings, too. “Look for Dawson Cairns to be a consistent contributor also, he has put in countless hours in the gym and weight room this off season.”

    Juniors Cameron Brady and Nicolo Cammarano also are key newcomers for the Red Wolves this season.

    Red Wolve fans can look for a very fast-paced attack on both sides of the ball this winter, according to Ayers. “We want to play with an up-tempo style game. We feel like we have the guys to be successful by putting pressure on our opponents in different ways by playing with an aggressive mentality. On the offensive side, our focus has been finding good quality shots early in the shot clock,” Ayers said, also noting his team’s philosophy this season as defense, run, rebound and score in that order.

    The new league has its challenges. Ayers expects Stanwood, Arlington, Shorecrest, Marysville-Pilchuck and Mountlake Terrace to contend for the Wesco crown this season, with Meadowdale, Everett, Lynnwood and Edmonds-Woodway to also be competitive. “We understand there are some new challenges with joining the Wesco Conference,” Ayers said. “We will be traveling to new schools, playing in new gyms, against new opponents. These challenges will come early also with our first 7 out of our first 10 games will be on the road. But I think we are up to meeting those new challenges. We feel like playing in the Wesco will battle test us, and better prepare us for the postseason. When we have to face the likes of Lynden, Anacortes, Sehome, and Burlington-Edison to get out of our District we need to be tested. Our district has some of the toughest competition in the state.” Ayers added, “I am confident if we play with our strengths we can compete with any team we will face this season.”

    Prepping for the new Wesco environment has resulted in some significant changes behind the scenes, according to Ayers, not the least of which was his appointment as head coach following Prince’s offseason resignation. “We have been working hard this off season in the weight room to become stronger athletes, ensuring that we can compete at a higher level against our new league opponents. We continue to grow in our knowledge of the game and of our opponents. We are rebuilding some structural components of the program with a new coaching staff and are excited for the opportunities,” he said.

    His staff consists of coaches who know the area and know the kids, which could be useful in helping identify ways the players can best help the overall team’s success. Sam Farnworth will be the lead varsity assistant and head junior varsity coach. He is a former CHS girls’ coaching staff member who has prior coaching experience with the Red Wolve select feeder program. John Soule, a recent Cedarcrest grad and former player under Prince, takes over the freshman “C” team head duties this season, and program assistant Jesse Vliem also has experience within CHS’ select travel basketball feeder program.

    Another part of the change has been developing a closer relationship with the Red Wolves’ girls’ program. “We have partnered with our girls program in hopes to build a “PACK Mentality” with our basketball programs. Both programs are excited with our teams and hope to strengthen the bond and following with our community,” Ayers told us. To that end, the two teams’ jamboree Saturday won’t be spent playing other schools, it’ll instead be playing one another with one another. CHS’ boys and girls will be playing in an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. Games in this thing begin at 1:00pm and will last all afternoon and into the evening at Cedarcrest’s gym in Duvall, 29000 NE 150th St. The event, dubbed the “Turkey Tip-Off,” is the first of these ever, and they are hoping to make this an annual tradition.

    Further, both teams will be over in Chelan for their holiday tournament during winter break. Neither program has made serious overtures in recent seasons to compete over the winter break in a tournament (although the girls have done a couple of these under their coach, Brad Knowles), so this also is a bit of a change from past practice, another sign that the programs really understand that to be successful in this new environment, they need to act like they are in it, and with most of their league rivals likely to be competing in similar tournaments, extra games against challenging competition can also help in their overall conference success.

    The season opens at home next Wednesday against Anacortes, then they’ll have just one home game between then and after the first of the year – December 14 against Marysville-Getchell. Home games with the exception of the Archbishop Murphy game January 18 will be 7:15 p.m, tips, with that ATM game being the nightcap of a doubleheader of girls’ and boys action starting at around 8:15. Home games will also be at CHS’ gymnasium. Senior night is February 4 against Edmonds-Woodway.

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