A dozen North Whidbey Middle School eighth graders made history this week when they became the school’s first girls basketball team to achieve an undefeated season.
The team played the last game of the season at home on Tuesday, March 22, beating Cascade Middle School 53 to 17 and locking in their 8-0 record.
Coach Troy Cowan said it’s more than raw skill that made the team so successful, though the girls certainly have plenty of that to go around. In Cowan’s mind, what takes the group from a good team to a great team is their unparalleled chemistry on the floor.
“They’re usually one or two steps ahead of where their teammate is going to be,” he said. “They’re able to deliver the ball at a critical moment, or make a pass, or just be able to communicate without using any kind of verbal communications.”
The team members were so effective, Cowan said they had no problem handily defeating the other schools they went up against, including teams that had given them trouble in the past. In the six years since he started coaching, Cowan said the North Whidbey eighth graders have never won against Burlington-Edison — until this year, when the Cougars beat Burlington-Edison by 25 points.
Cowan said during the team’s last practice, he even brought in a handful of girls from the high school varsity team to scrimmage the eighth graders, and the middle school girls only lost by 4 points.
But it’s more than high scores and big wins that make the team special. Cowan said the girls also excelled in compassion and support for one another.
The coach recalled several instances when, during games, players would forgo an easy shot to pass the ball to a teammate who hadn’t scored yet, just to make sure she felt included in the team’s success.
Every time another teammate scored her first basket of the season, Cowan said the girls’ cheering was so loud, he worried it would bring the gym roof down.
“We had to bring some engineers out to check on the structure of the school,” he joked.
By the end of the season, there wasn’t a girl on the team who hadn’t scored during a game at least once.
A handful of players emerged as leaders during the season, Cowan said. Suki Warden was one player who finished each game with impressive statistics; Cowan said she averaged close to a triple double in every game, meaning she scored in the double digits in at least three statistical categories. Cowan said Warden’s skill level is such that he wouldn’t be surprised to see her playing basketball professionally in the future.
Another team leader, Zoe Scott, was voted most inspirational by her teammates. Cowan described Scott as the glue that held the team together, recalling her locker room pep talks and encouragement.
Other players on the undefeated team were Matayah Delano, Allena Locklear, Ariel Losada, Scarlett Nations, Ava Shoosmith, Layla Suto, Reagan Syring, Justine Ventura and Annalise Wesley.