Lady Pirates refresh roster in Alaska

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Sequim Gazette

That Alaska pipeline keeps pumping out top recruits for Peninsula College.

Already fertile ground for P.C.’s basketball and soccer squads, Alaska provides Peninsula head coach Alison Crumb with some key players she hopes will bring back the Pirates’ winning ways.

Making the trek south from the Frontier State are guards Tia Mason, Karli Brakes, Leisl Brown, Jesse Ellis and Jasmine Yarde, with forward/posts Abigail Jones, Taylor Larson and Raquel Young.

The flurry of Alaskan freshmen join returnees Callie Monfrey — also an Alaskan native — plus Megan Smith and Ashley Manker, both of Coupeville.

Peninsula looks to rebound from two tough years. After qualifying for the 2009 NWAACC tourney, the Pirates lost their coach (Julie Stewart) and some momentum, winning just eight games in the following two seasons.

Crumb, however, likes her chances with her newcomers. One of those players is Yarde, who was called “one of the most decorated basketball players to come out of West Valley” by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Yarde helped the West Valley girls to a 22-8 record, a Mid-Alaska Conference title and a fourth-place finish at the Class 4A State Tournament.

Yarde signed her National Letter of Intent to play for Peninsula earlier this spring.

“I’m excited, and I’m happy, but mostly, I’m just really thankful for this opportunity,” Yarde said. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee the summer before her senior year and only played half of her final season. Despite the injury, Yarde averaged 15.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.4 steals per game last season, and led all players at the state tournament with 54 total points and 18 steals.

“(Jasmine) is a true competitor and works very hard at what she does,” Crumb said. “The first thing I did this recruiting season was call Jasmine and it worked out for us. I think she will be a great asset to our program.”

Crumb said she is also excited about the prospect of having Ellis in a Pirate uniform this year. Ellis is a 5-foot 7-inch forward/guard from 2A Skagway High School. She has earned All-State and All-Conference honors all four years of her high school career. In 2011, she was First Team All-State, she made the All-State Tournament Team, she was a part of a team that won consecutive state championships and was named the Class 2A Player of the Year.

Another big-time Alaska athlete to commit to play for the Pirates is Young, from Kenai Central High School. The 5-foot 11-inch forward/post was earned All-Tournament honors at the Kenai River Classic, Cordova Tournament, and Ketchikan Tournament, she won All-Region honors in her Northern Lights Conference and was named to the Alaska Senior All-Star team for 2011.

Young was also named Athlete of the Year at Kenai Central High School where she is an excellent student.

 “She works hard on the boards, and gets up a down the floor as a post player,” Crumb said. “She is aggressive, and physical, and will go for any loose ball no matter where it is at on the floor. She will bring a competitive spirit to our program and we look forward to having her.”

Familiar name joins Pirates

Continuing with the Alaska theme, Crumb signed Wasilla High guard Leisl Brown. Her sisters Jamie and Ayla both played for the Pirates.

Brown helped Wasilla’s Warriors to the state tournament for the second straight year, but was injured in the first game and was not able to play the rest of the way. Before she was hurt, she contributed four steals, seven points and helped the Wasilla girls get past Bartlett on their way to a Class 4A State Championship.

“I’m really excited to have Leisl join our team,” Crumb said. “Her family has all played here, so there is a great deal of roots here at Peninsula. Her quickness and ability to defend is going to help keep our guard-play fast and tenacious.”

All the way from Haines, Alaska, is another forward in Jones. She is a 5-foot 9-inch forward who can play anywhere on the court.

“We plan on utilizing Abby in every position,” Crumb said. “She can shoot, she can rebound, and she is very aggressive. I see her getting a lot of loose ball buckets from offensive rebounds and running the floor. She works very hard at everything that she does and will be another great addition to Peninsula College.”

A little closer to home, coach Crumb signed Durbin, a 6-foot 2-inch post from Klahowya in Silverdale, where she was a four-year letter winner and three-year starter. Durbin suffered an injury her senior year and played sparingly, but still averaged 9.7 rebounds, 8 points and 2 steals. Perhaps her most incredible statistic, the 6-2 post also had more than 100 blocks between her junior and senior years.

“Jonica adds size to our quickness and that is very important,” Crumb said. “We’ve been playing really small the last couple years and are looking forward to being able to have someone in the paint to detract shots and discourage easy buckets. She will help our defense, our rebounding, and will also add a true post presence in our offense. She is a great girl and has already made several trips up to Peninsula to get up and down the floor with us this spring.”

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