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Two for the record books
Records were made to be broken and in the case of Peninsula College's Taylor Larson and Karli Brakes, significantly broken.
The post-guard duo have played together and connected on the give-and-go since sixth grade and are on pace to capture all of the college's field goal/points and assists records.
Larson most recently broke the in-game scoring mark with 41 points in an 87-73 win over the Everett Trojans on Feb. 13.
She also padded her all-time Peninsula career scoring record, previously held by Courtney Bridges, who scored 794 points in 1998-2000. Larson is now at 879 with three regular season games remaining.
Brakes passed her own personal game assists mark with 15, too.
Considering herself a true point guard — pass first, shoot second — Brakes leads the NWAACC in assists per game and holds Peninsula's all-time assist record, previously owned by Venika Dickerson, who dished out 254 assists from 1999-2001. Brakes is now at 280.
“People tell me to score more but I don't see the point when we're winning,” Brakes said. “Coach does tell me to score more but really to improve my overall game.”
With the win against Everett, the Pirates moved into sole possession of fourth place in the North Division.
The top four teams will advance to the NWAACC Basketball Championship Tournament, set for March 2-5 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. The win lifts Peninsula (7-4, 12-9) one game ahead of Everett.
Skagit Valley, Whatcom and Bellevue are knotted in first place with 9-2 conference records. The Pirates hosted Olympic on Saturday and travel to Shoreline on Wednesday and then return home for their “sophomore night” game against Bellevue on Feb. 23 to wrap up regular season play.
As the team keeps winning, the co-captains Larson and Brakes are likely to break even more records.
"Overall, these records mean something to me, because it gives a legacy to these players who have worked so hard," Peninsula head coach Ali Crumb said.
"To see it pay off for them, makes me proud, and to know I will get to see their names in the program for a while just brings a smile to my face," she said. "Ultimately, it means more to me how we do at the tournament than anything, but it has been really special to be a part of these kids’ lives for two years, and I’m happy they are getting recognition for their success. They deserve it, period."
Alaska mountain friendships
In Alaska, the Juneau-Douglas High School alums said their school didn't keep track of records like Peninsula College and that they didn't follow their stats much until their sophomore years.
“Now they just have it all for us,” Brakes said.
Along with the scoring mark, Larson sank 18 of 21 baskets last Wednesday to break her record from Jan. 25, 2012, of 17 field goals made. But of all her records she finds the all-time scoring mark to be the biggest achievement.
“It's not a record anyone could easily break,” she said. “It proves how hard I really work. I feel that's more of an accomplishment than scoring the most points in just one game.”
Brakes feels the same about the all-time assists record.
“But not everyone has a Taylor,” she joked.
"I think this comes easy to them," Crumb said. "When I say it comes easy, I do not mean that they do not work hard, I mean that they have been given a talent and they have a chemistry that has been perfected over the past eight years or more playing together. Taylor can score, Karli can pass, and they play together really well."
The teammates find themselves in familiar company. Eight of their teammates — Olivia Henderson, Brandi Hale, Abigail Jones, Jesse Ellis, Jasmine Yarde, Pherrari Brumbaugh, Abbie Koenig and Leisl Brown — were recruited from Alaska.
“We either played with or against them all at some point,” Brakes said about growing up.
The other players are supportive of Brakes and Larson, they said, as they continue to break more records.
“The team is so supportive of us and us of them,” Brakes said. “No one is upset when we break records.”
As a whole, the team has formed a tight bond.
“We have a good support system and make sure we all pass our classes,” Brakes said.
A bond of pirates
Building that kind of bond is exactly what Brakes said she wanted in a college basketball team. But that almost didn't happen here.
She originally was headed for a private school in Oregon to play ball before P.C. Coach Alison Crumb stepped in at the last minute.
Brakes said she didn't want to build a relationship with a team for only two years and then start all over again after transferring.
Yet playing among friends may continue for a core of the team.
Brakes, Larson, Ellis and Yarde are considering a move to play for a team on the East Coast together.
“You can't put a price on playing with the same girls,” Brakes said.
Larson agrees. “I feel it would be a good opportunity,” she said.
With two years of Pirates basketball almost finished, Larson said she and Brakes have a strong friendship on and off the court despite basketball coming naturally for them.
They've stuck to the basics of college life, going to classes and spending three to four hours a day in the gym either practicing or lifting weights.
Contrary to typical college freshmen and sophomores, the duo had to find their own houses or apartments to live in and find their own groceries rather than living in dorms and eating from meal plans.
“It's more freedom but it feels like we were thrown into the real world,” Larson said. “We were pushed into adulthood but it's beneficial for us.”
“I feel I've grown up a lot,” Brakes said. “I enjoy paying my bills on time and I feel more like an adult.”
When asked about their personal goals, Brakes and Larson kept it simple — graduate and find self-sustaining jobs in which they can be successful.
But with a few games left and playoffs on the horizon, the young women remain focused.
“We need to keep believing in ourselves,” Larson said. “We are talented and believe we can do well.”