Taylor Larson’s storied career as a Pirate was rewarded last week when the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges named her the North Region’s Most Valuable Player.
Four of Larson’s teammates earned All-Conference honors, as Karli Brakes was named Defensive Player of the Year, Jesse Ellis and Jasmine Yarde won spots on the North Region’s Second Team and Abby Jones and Brakes were named to the NWAACC’s All-Academic Team.
Larson, who averaged 19 points a game, finished the regular season as the sixth leading scorer in the NWAACC. She broke a number of Peninsula College scoring records, including the season and career marks, as well as the single game record of 41 points she tallied back on Feb. 13 against Everett.
She shares the MVP award with Laken McClelland of Skagit Valley.
“Taylor is very deserving of this award,” Peninsula head coach Alison Crumb said. “Her dominance in the league was outstanding and she was virtually unstoppable against every team we played against so it was very clear that she should obtain that award," Crumb said.
"When you think of most valuable you think of the one player in the league you wouldn't want on any other team and Taylor is that person.”
Larson, a sophomore post out of Juneau-Douglas High School in Juneau, Alaska, injured her knee on Feb. 16 against Olympic and is listed as “doubtful” to play in the upcoming NWAACC Tournament.
Brakes, a high school teammate of Larson, who had a record-breaking year in assists at Peninsula College, and who leads the entire NWAACC in assists with six per game, showed her value on both sides of the ball as the North’s Defensive Player of the Year.
She was ninth in the NWAACC in steals with 67.
“There are very good defenders out there, but most refuse to play at the energy level of Karli Brakes,” Crumb said of her sophomore guard. “She plays full speed, the full length of the floor. Not only can she stop someone, but she can disrupt many, which is another rare quality. I've seen very few players who are willing to dedicate that much energy, focus and pride in their defense."
Ellis and Yarde won spots on the North Region’s Second Team. Ellis averaged 12 points, five rebounds and three assists per game, while Yarde averaged 14 points, three assists, 2.4 steals and five rebounds per game. In addition to her Second Team honor, Ellis was named to the North Region All-Defensive Team.
“These guards are aggressive, defensively disruptive and can score in multiple ways,” Crumb said of her Haines, Alaska, and Fairbanks, Alaska, sophomores.
“The best thing about their game is that they are both so aggressive. If they are getting stopped the first 15 minutes of the game, you cannot let up on them because they will stay after it and continue to try to find ways to hurt you. They are both relentless and that is why they picked apart teams, because you have to play them for 40 minutes and they can hurt you on both ends of the floor.”
Jones and Brakes, meanwhile, also landed spots on the NWAACC’s All-Academic Team. Jones averages a 3.9 grade-point average and Brakes a 3.3 GPA.
Coach Crumb praised both Jones and Brakes for their intelligence and leadership, on and off the court, as well as her entire team, for modeling outstanding character.
P.C. men earn honors
Pirate freshman Xavier Bazile and sophomore Djuan Smith were named to the North Region All-Star Team last week, as announced by the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges.
Bazile, a freshman out of Tacoma, averaged 19 points per game (11th in the NWAACC) and and five rebounds per contest. He was named North Region Second Team All-Star.
“Xavier is a freshman who will be back next season, so that is really exciting to have an all-league player returning for another year,” Peninsula coach Lance Von Vogt said. “You can just imagine how good X will be next year.”
Smith, a sophomore out of Little Rock, Ark., averaged 16 points and seven rebounds per game, and also contributed 38 steals and 17 blocked shots. He was named to the North Region Second Team and also to the North Region All-Defensive Team. He also was named runner-up for Defensive MVP.
“Djuan is a young man who has bounced back from two seasons that ended prematurely to show what he is truly capable of this year,” Von Vogt said. “I can’t say enough for his resolve as a human being and as an athlete. He is receiving a lot of interest at the four-year level, as well he should be, because whoever gets him will be getting a winner.”
Von Vogt added, "Djuan earning the runner-up for Defensive MVP and being on the all-defensive team shows you how he can change the face of a game without even scoring a point. He guards the ball. He gets blocks and steals. He defends all five positions on the floor, point guard all the way to center. His versatility is unmatched."
“Xavier and Djuan are both worthy of their selections to the All North Region team,” Von Vogt said. “Both impact the game in multiple ways on both ends of the floor.”
Port Angeles’ Ian Ward also got in on the post season accolades when he was named to the NWAACC All-Academic Team. The Pirate sophomore carries a 3.50 grade-point average after one year at Lower Columbia College and one quarter at Peninsula.
“Ian is a consummate teammate who works extremely hard on the court and in the classroom,” Von Vogt said.