To play for the Olympic Avalanche basketball team, a player needs to be focused and dedicated. That, and a ride to practice ... a long, long ride.
The Avalanche is a group of some of the top young female basketball players on the Olympic Peninsula, boasting middle school-aged players from
Sequim, Port Angeles and all the way out in Neah Bay.
"To my knowledge, there's never been a team that's drawn athletes from the entire Olympic Peninsula," says coach Joe Marvelle.
Although the Avalanche features some top local talent, its creation is less of an all-star team and more of matter of circumstance.
Marvelle says he and other local coaches have a hard time getting good, young athletes to come and play select basketball anymore.
"I think part of it is kids have so many things to choose from," Marvelle says. "They don't want to limit themselves to just one sport."
And what some potential players give up gives others an opportunity to play. It has paid off: The Avalanche squad has placed in the top three spots in seven of their last eight tournaments, including a pair of championships (Tiger Classic in Burlington, Holiday Hoops in Port Angeles).
Krista Johnson, a sharp shooter from Neah Bay with deft passing skills, leads the team in points (8.1), assists (1.3) and steals (3.8) per game, while Port Angeles' Mariah Frazier grabs 12.5 rebounds per contest. Sequim's Anna Mittman is third on the team in rebounds followed closely by fellow Sequim player Alexas Besand.
But practice at Roosevelt Middle School in Port Angeles means a 60-mile ride for Johnson and Lizzie Lawrence. Last year was even worse, Marvelle said, with players from Forks, Chimacum and Port Townsend on the squad.
"We have a common goal and we make it work," Marvelle says. "Everybody's committed."
That includes dedication from players and parents alike, the coach says. It also helps to have aid from Tom Hughes, a player development coach who used to work at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas; Bishop Gorman is a 12-time Nevada state boys basketball champ and has won the last three girls state championships.
Hughes has the Avalanche players on three different workout schedules: off-season, pre-season and in-season.
"A lot of these girls have athletic talent; they just haven't been pointed in the right direction," Hughes says.
To keep hoops healthy and strong, Marvelle hopes to nourish this crop of athletes so they're ready for high school ball next year or the year after. To that end, he has the Avalanche practicing each week, looking at game film - "Especially if we're bad," Marvelle says - and playing up to 60 games this season in 15 tournaments that stretch all the way into June. The season may extend into July if Marvelle has his way, eyeing a tourney in Maui.
Beyond being good athletes, Avalanche players also give back to their community and keep solid grades, Marvelle says; The team grade-point average is 3.49.
"They all love each other to death (and) they're enthusiastic," he says. These girls give you everything they've got."
With the team so successful, Marvelle is looking a branching out into a fifth-grade boys team from across the region.
""I believe in what we've developed here," he says.
For more information about the team, contact Marvelle at 670-9505, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or see olympic avalance.com.
at Ferndale Jam
Revenge, as the cliché goes, is sweet.
That may be true for the winners, but it was anything but sweet for the Avalanche in Sunday's Ferndale Jam semifinals against host Ferndale at the Ferndale Jam in Bellingham on Sunday.
Ferndale topped the Avalanche 42-20 and went on to beat Cashmere in the finals for the tourney title. The win against Olympic avenged a loss to the Avalanche last May at the Tiger Classic in Burlington.
Krista Johnson led the team with five points and four steals while Mariah Frazier had eight rebounds.
It was Olympic's fifth game in two days.
The Avalanche opened the tourney with a 43-28 win against the Whatcom Magic. Frazier had 11 points, 10 rebounds and six steals while Krissy Marvelle had a seven-point streak to break open a tight contest. The Avalanche out-rebounded the Magic 41-17.
In the second game, Burlington-Edison edged the Avalanche 28-25, taking advantage of getting to the line 27 more times than Olympic. Frazier fouled out with 14 minutes in regulation to spell doom for Olympic. Johnson led the team with eight points, three steals and two assists.
"The fact we stayed in this game considering the free throw disparity is a tribute to the girls' will," coach Joe Marvelle said.
The Avalanche responded with a 43-14 blowout of Comcast Bellingham. Frazier had 10 points and 17 rebounds while Johnson had 14 points, eight steals and two assists. The Avalanche had a 16-0 run in the second half after the team started pressing.
On Sunday in the quarterfinals, Frazier was huge with a 13-point, 16-rebound effort as the Avalanche stopped the Bellingham Flash 33-23. Johnson had five assists and Lauren Aguirre added five points and six rebounds.
But the Ferndale squad was ready for the Avalanche in the semifinals later that day. Olympic managed to shoot just eight-of-28 from the field.
"Ferndale blitzed us from the opening tip," Marvell said. "We allowed easy transition baskets and fast break points. (But) I love this team and am very proud of their effort this weekend."
The Avalanche play again at the 12th Annual Cascade Classic in Leavenworth Feb. 7-8.